Volume 67, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Microscopy of Giemsa-stained thick and thin films by a skilled microscopist has remained the standard laboratory method for the diagnosis of malaria. However, diagnosis of malaria with this method is problematic since interpretation of results requires considerable expertise, particularly at low parasite levels. We compared the efficacy of "field" and "expert laboratory" microscopy for active surveillance of Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax in western Thailand. Field microscopy consisted of an approximately five-minute read (50-100 fields) of a thick film at x700 using a natural light source, whereas expert laboratory microscopy consisted of a 20-minute read (number of parasites per 500 leukocytes) at x1,000 using a high-quality, well-maintained microscope with an artificial light source. All discordant and 20% of concordant results were cross-checked blindly. A total of 3,004 blood films collected between May and November 2000 were included in the study, of which 156 (5.2%) were positive for P. falciparum, 177 (5.9%) for P. vivax, and 4 (0.1%) for both P. falciparum and P. vivax by expert microscopy. A total of 84.4% (135 of 160) of the P. falciparum-positive slides and 93.9% of the P. vivax-positive slides had a parasitemia of less than 500/microL. Field microscopy was specific (99.3%) but not sensitive (10.0%) for the diagnosis of P. falciparum malaria, with a positive predictive value (PPV) of 43.2% and a negative predictive value (NPV) of 95.1%. The corresponding specificity and sensitivity for the diagnosis of P. vivax malaria were 99.2% and 7.1%, respectively, with a PPV of 38.7% and an NPV of 93.9%. Field microscopy, as defined in this study, is not an effective method for active malaria surveillance in western Thailand, where prevalence and parasitemia rates are low.


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