Volume 58, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


The purpose of this investigation was to assess the role of serology for establishing incidences of Plasmodium falciparum malaria and of exposure to P. falciparum in epidemiologic studies of travelers using chemoprophylaxis. The design was a prospective cohort study involving 548 short-term Dutch travelers to areas endemic for P. falciparum malaria. Sera were collected before departure and, together with the medical history, 2-6 weeks after return. All sera were tested for anti-circumsporozoite (CS) antibodies by an R32tet32-ELISA; sera of subjects reporting febrile illness during travel or after return or with anti-CS responses were tested for anti-blood-stage antibodies by an indirect fluorescence antibody test (IFAT). Five subjects (0.9%) reported P. falciparum malaria confirmed by thick blood smear examination (documented cases) and six (1.0%) reported treatment for malaria without a documented diagnosis (presumptive cases). Conversions in the IFAT were detected in six subjects, including all five documented cases and one presumptive case. Anti-CS antibodies were detected in seven subjects (1.3%), including three documented cases and four of 442 subjects with no history of fever or malaria treatment (0.9%). Incidence rates per 1,000 person-months of travel (95% confidence interval) of infection with P. falciparum, whether or not suppressed by chemoprophylaxis, were 16.9 (8-31) for all destinations and 91.6 (33-200) for West Africa. In epidemiologic studies of P. falciparum malaria in travelers, testing for antibodies to blood stages can increase the sensitivity and specificity of case detection; testing for antibodies to sporozoites may be useful for the assessment of exposure to P. falciparum in travelers using chemoprophylaxis, but the sensitivity is limited.


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