Performance of the OptiMAL assay for detection and identification of malaria infections in asymptomatic residents of Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

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  • 1 United States Naval Medical Research Unit Number Two, Jakarta, Indonesia. [email protected]

The OptiMAL assay, a new immunochromatographic "dipstick" test for malaria based on detection of Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH), is purported to detect infections of approximately 200 parasites/microL of blood and to differentiate between Plasmodium falciparum and non-P. falciparum. We evaluated OptiMAL performance by comparing the test strip interpretations of two independent readers with consensus results obtained independently by expert malaria microscopists. Unbiased measures of sensitivity were derived by applying the OptiMAL test for detection and differentiation of light, asymptomatic infections by P. falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. OptiMAL readings were separated in time to determine whether the reaction signal was stable. Microscopy identified infections in 225 of 505 individuals screened; those with P. falciparum (n = 170) averaged 354 asexual forms/microL and P. vivax/Plasmodium malariae (n = 112) averaged 216 asexual forms/microL of blood. Concordance between OptiMAL and microscopy was 81% and 78% by the two independent readings. The assay's sensitivity for detection of any malaria species was 60.4% and 70.2% respectively and specificity was 97% and 89%. Most cases identified by microscopy as P. falciparum were graded as negative or non-falciparum by both OptiMAL readers. OptiMAL false negatives as well as misidentifications were related to low parasitemias (< 500/microL). The OptiMAL assay demonstrated 88-92% sensitivity for detecting infections of 500-1,000 parasites/microL, a range covering the mean parasitemia of primary symptomatic P. falciparum infections in malaria-naïve Indonesian transmigrants. This device was markedly less sensitive than expert microscopy for discriminating between malaria species and is presently unsuited for use as an epidemiological screening tool. The OptiMAL assay is not approved for diagnostic use but is commercially available for research purposes only.