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Evaluation of malaria multiplex/nested PCR performance at low parasite densities and mixed infection in Iran: A country close to malaria elimination

Mirahmadi, Hadi, Shahrakipour, Azam, Mehravaran, Ahmad, khorashad, Alireza Salami, Rahmati-Balaghaleh, Mansour, Zarean, Mehdi
Infection, genetics, and evolution 2018 v.65 pp. 283-287
DNA, Plasmodium falciparum, blood, malaria, microscopy, mixed infection, parasites, patients, polymerase chain reaction, public health, tropics, Iran
Malaria is still a major public health problem in subtropical and tropical regions. The rapid and accurate diagnosis of malaria remains a challenge in most of the endemic areas. The primary objective of the present study was to evaluate the performance of multiplex/nested PCR in detecting Plasmodium falciparum at low parasite densities and mixed infection.The study was performed in the Sistan-Baluchestan province of the southeastern Iran, from May 2015 to July 2016. A total of 105 patients suspected to malaria infection were enrolled in the study. The obtained DNA products, extracted from the thick/thin films, were analyzed by multiplex/nested PCR using genus-specific primers and compared with light microscopy.43 samples were confirmed to be infected by microscopic examination. Among 43 microscopically diagnosed P. falciparum cases, 11.4% (12/105) were confirmed by multiplex/nested PCR, 36.2% (38/105) were confirmed as P. vivax, 1.9% (2/105) had mixed infections with P. falciparum and P. vivax. Among microscopy-negative samples, 10 samples turned malaria-positive in nPCR. In multiplex/nested PCR, the rate of mixed infections was 8.6% (9/105). When compared to LM, the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value and negative predictive value of multiplex/nested PCR were calculated to be 82.8, 91.5, 92.3 and 81.1%, respectively.In this study, we showed that microscopic examination of blood smears does not reliably distinguish Plasmodium species in the case of mixed infections. Therefore, it seems that multiplex/nested PCR is a good candidate for examining the presence of malaria parasites in clinically suspected but microscopically negative cases.