Diagnosis of imported malaria by Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH) and histidine-rich protein 2 (PfHRP-2)-based immunocapture assays.

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  • 1 Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Kuwait University, Safat. iqbal@hsc.kuniv.edu.kw

This study was conducted to evaluate the performance of two rapid non-microscopic assays: Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH) assay (OptiMAL) and Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein 2 (PfHRP-2) assay (ICT Malaria). The assays were used to detect malaria infection in 515 immigrants living in Kuwait. The performance of both assays was compared to that of microscopy of Giemsa-stained thick blood films and to each other. Of the 515 patients tested, 163 were positive for malaria parasites by microscopy of thick blood film. Of these, 87 were infected with Plasmodium vivax parasites, 63 with P. falciparum, 1 with Plasmodium malariae, and 12 had mixed infections of P. falciparum and P. vivax. The PfHRP-2 assay detected 53 P. falciparum infections and, as expected, failed to detect all but one case of P. vivax. Three cases of mixed infections were also not detected by this assay. The pLDH assay detected 56 P. falciparum cases and 77 P. vivax infections but failed to detect 4 cases of mixed infections. Compared to microscopy, the performance of both the assays to diagnose P. falciparum infection was comparable. The sensitivity for the PfHRP-2 assay was 82% with a specificity of 99.0% and for the pLDH assay the sensitivity was 89% with a specificity of 99.5%. The PfHRP-2 assay detected 4 false positive cases, 2 of which were also detected by the pLDH assay. These patients reported treatment with chloroquine in the last 2-5 weeks. Though the immunocapture diagnostic assays may be helpful in certain situations, microscopy of thick blood film is still the method of choice in diagnosing imported malaria.