Patterns of Pigment Accumulation in Plasmodium Falciparum Trophozoites in Peripheral Blood Samples

G. A. JamjoomCollege of Medicine, Department of Clinical Microbiology and Parasitology, King Saud University-Abha Branch, P.O. Box 641, Abha, Saudi Arabia

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Ninety-five samples of peripheral blood from patients with Plasmodium falciparum malaria in southwest Saudi Arabia were examined by Giemsa staining and darkfield microscopy under flow condition. Eighty-four samples contained trophozoites (ring forms) only and 11 samples contained gametocytes and trophozoites. Two patterns of pigmentation were observed in the trophozoite-containing samples: 48 (57%) contained trophozoites in which no pigment could be detected, 32 (38%) contained trophozoites with clearly detectable pigment, and 4 (5%) contained both pigmented and nonpigmented forms. Trophozoite pigmentation did not correlate with percent parasitemia or age or sex of the patients. These results indicate that microscopically observable pigment accumulation in trophozoites of P. falciparum is not required during the asexual multiplication cycle. Pigment accumulation may be triggered later in infection, perhaps as a feature of the differentiation process leading to the formation of gametocytes.