Molecular testing for Plasmodium is used for laboratory diagnosis and confirmation of malaria.
Malaria is a tropical disease that infects about 500 million people and causes 1.5-3.0 million deaths annually. About 90% of deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and most occur in children younger than 5 years.
Malaria is mainly caused by 4 species of Plasmodium protozoan: Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae, and Plasmodium ovale. A fifth species has recently been identified as Plasmodium knowlesi, which is found in some parts of Southeast Asia.
Optical microscopy of peripheral blood stained with Giemsa is the standard laboratory method for the diagnosis and differentiation of malaria parasites. Under optimal conditions, the sensitivity of the thick blood smear is estimated to be 10 to 30 parasites per microliter of blood. However, microscopic diagnosis requires considerable experience and may not be sufficiently sensitive and specific when the laboratory experience is inadequate or when the equipment is not very sophisticated. In addition, prolonged exposure to anticoagulant EDTA, transport conditions, and prior use of antimalarial drugs may alter the morphology of the parasites and may adversely affect the ability to identify and differentiate Plasmodium species by optical microscopy.
Molecular PCR testing is an excellent alternative method of diagnosis of malaria, having very high specificity and sensitivity compared to standard laboratory methods.
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.