Assessment of malaria real-time PCR methods and application with focus on lowlevel parasitaemia
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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In epidemiological surveys and surveillance the application of molecular tools is essential in detecting submicroscopic malaria. A genus-specific conventional cytochrome b (cytb) PCR has shown high sensitivity in field studies, detecting 70% submicroscopic malaria. The main objective of this study was to assess the conversion from conventional to real-time PCR testing both SYBR and probe protocols, and including quantitative (q) PCR. The protocols were assessed applying well-defined clinical patient material consisting of 33 positive and 80 negative samples. Sequencing of positive PCR products was performed. In addition, a sensitivity comparison of real-time PCR methods was done by including five relevant assays investigating the effect of amplification target and platform. Sensitivity was further examined using field material consisting of 111 P.falciparum positive samples from Tanzanian children (< 5 years), as well as using related patient data to assess the application of q-PCR with focus on low-level parasitaemia. Both the cytb SYBR and probe PCR protocols showed as high sensitivity and specificity as their conventional counterpart, except missing one P. malariae sample. The SYBR protocol was more sensitive and specific than using probe. Overall, choice of amplification target applied is relevant for achieving ultra-sensitivity, and using intercalating fluorescence dye rather than labelled hydrolysis probes is favourable. Application of q-PCR analysis in field projects is important for the awareness and understanding of low-level parasitaemia. For use in clinical diagnosis and epidemiological studies the highly sensitive and user-friendly cytb SYBR q-PCR method is a relevant tool. The genus-specific method has the advantage that species identification by sequencing can be performed as an alternative to species-specific PCR.