A Comparative Field Study of Radiolabeled and Enzyme-Conjugated Synthetic DNA Probes for the Diagnosis of Falciparum Malaria

Orntipa SethabutrDepartments of Bacteriology

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Arthur E. BrownDepartments of Immunology

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John GingrichDepartments of Entomology, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bankok 10400, Thailand

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H. Kyle WebsterDepartments of Immunology

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Nopadol PooyindeeDepartments of Immunology

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David N. TaylorDepartments of Bacteriology

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Peter EcheverriaDepartments of Bacteriology

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Synthetic, 21-base, DNA probes to the genome of Plasmodium falciparum were either 32P-labeled or enzyme-conjugated for comparative field studies. The sensitivity of both probes was compared with microscopy in the examination of blood samples from 97 Thai villagers, 47 Thai Rangers, and 19 malaria-free Bangkok residents. The probes were also used to monitor the therapeutic response of 18 of the Rangers during 7 days of treatment. The probes proved highly specific. Both probes had lower limits of detection of about 100 parasites per µl blood. Thus, the low parasite densities in partially immune villagers from an endemic area were often missed, while higher parasite densities in the nonimmune Rangers were usually detected. As monitors of response to treatment, the probes paralleled microscopy in identifying reversion from positive to negative parasitemia. The enzymelabeled DNA probe as shown to perform similarly to the radiolabeled probe in populations with different malarial immune status and during curative treatment.

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