Demonstration by the polymerase chain reaction of mixed Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax infections undetected by conventional microscopy

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. Nov-Dec 1992;86(6):609-12. doi: 10.1016/0035-9203(92)90147-5.


Mixed malaria infections (Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax) are suspected to occur at a greater frequency than is detected by conventional light microscopy. To determine this frequency we carried out a prospective 'blinded' comparison of diagnosis by conventional light microscopy and enzymatic amplification of the circumsporozoite gene extracted from dried spotted blood samples. Patients were previously healthy, active duty Thai soldiers assigned to a malaria risk area presenting with malaria. Microscopy (oil immersion objective at 1000 x magnification) involved examination of Giemsa-stained thick and thin blood films by an experienced microscopist. Whole blood samples (25 microliters) dried on filter paper were used for species-specific parasite deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) amplification by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and hybridization with radiolabelled P. falciparum and P. vivax probes. Of 137 consecutive cases of malaria studied, 9% (3/32) of microscopically diagnosed P. falciparum infections and 5% (5/104) of microscopically diagnosed P. vivax infections were found to be mixed by the PCR/DNA probe systems, while 1 case was diagnosed as mixed by both microscopy and PCR. The possibility that malaria patients may have undetected mixed infections should be kept in mind because of the specific therapy required both for P. falciparum and for radical cure of P. vivax.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • DNA, Protozoan / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / complications*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / diagnosis
  • Malaria, Vivax / complications*
  • Malaria, Vivax / diagnosis
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Protozoan Proteins / analysis
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • circumsporozoite protein, Protozoan