Plasmodium nucleic acids have been detected in serum and plasma, but there is little published data describing the diagnostic performance of malaria nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) using these specimen types. Previously, our group described a multiplex NAAT for the detection of dengue virus, Leptospira, and Plasmodium species with a callout for P. falciparum (the DLM assay) that demonstrated sensitive detection of P. falciparum from plasma samples during initial evaluation. In this study, we evaluated the sensitivity and specificity of P. falciparum detection in febrile Nigerian patients using the DLM assay, microscopy, and a rapid diagnostic test (BinaxNOW Malaria). Assay performances were compared using a composite reference, which was considered positive if malaria was detected by two or more methods. Serum (n = 182) or plasma (n = 148) from 317 patients was tested; the average sample volume was 70 µl (range, 5 to 300 µl). The sensitivity and specificity of the DLM assay were 97.1% and 93.5%, respectively. The sensitivity of the malaria rapid diagnostic test (98.1%) was similar to that of the DLM assay, and both proved significantly more sensitive than microscopy (79%; P < 0.0001). When analysis was limited to samples with =75 µl of serum or plasma, the sensitivity of the DLM assay improved to 99% and specificity was 97.5%. For P. falciparum cases, cycle threshold values in the DLM assay correlated with the parasite density detected by microscopy (Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, P < 0.0001). In conclusion, malaria detection using the DLM assay on serum or plasma is more sensitive than and equal in specificity to microscopy in patients with P. falciparum malaria.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JCM.01876-15
View details for PubMedID 26354810
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4609704