Volume 97, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



We describe a novel one-step reverse transcriptase real-time PCR (direct RT-PCR) for malaria parasites that amplifies RNA targets directly from blood. We developed the assay to identify gametocyte-specific transcripts in parasites from patient blood samples, as a means of monitoring malaria parasite transmission in field settings. To perform the test, blood is added directly to a master mix in PCR tubes and analyzed by real-time PCR. The limit of detection of the assay on both conventional and portable real-time PCR instruments was 100 parasites/mL for 18S rRNA, and 1,000 parasites/mL for asexual (PFE0065W) and gametocyte (PF14_0367, PFGEXP5) mRNA targets. The usefulness of this assay in field studies was explored in samples from individuals living in a high-transmission region in Cameroon. The sensitivity and specificity of the assay compared with a standard two-step RT-PCR was 100% for 18S rRNA on both conventional and portable instruments. For PF14_0367, the sensitivity and specificity were 85.7% and 70.0%, respectively, on the conventional instrument and 78.6% and 90%, respectively, on the portable instrument. The concordance for assays run on the two instruments was 100% for 18S rRNA, and 79.2% for PF14_0367, with most discrepancies resulting from samples with low transcript levels. The results show asexual and sexual stage RNA targets can be detected directly from blood samples in a simple one-step test on a field-friendly instrument. This assay may be useful for monitoring malaria parasite transmission potential in elimination settings, where sensitive diagnostics are needed to evaluate the progress of malaria eradication initiatives.


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  • Received : 16 Jan 2017
  • Accepted : 06 Apr 2017
  • Published online : 30 May 2017

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