Usefulness of quantitative buffy coat blood parasite detection system in diagnosis of malaria

Indian J Med Microbiol. 2001 Oct-Dec;19(4):219-21.


A rapid test for diagnosis of malaria based on acridine orange staining of centrifuged blood samples in a microhematocrit tube (QBC) was compared with thick and thin peripheral blood smears in 2274 samples. Malaria was diagnosed in 239 (10.5%) patients by Leishman's staining technique and QBC method. The QBC method allowed detection of an additional 89 (3.9%) cases. Thus the prevalence rate of malaria during the study was 14.4%. In 1946 patients who were negative by the QBC technique, the Leishman's stained smears did not provide any help in malaria diagnosis. Analysis of the relative quantity of parasites in the specimens, in the QBC method, revealed that 80 out of 89 QBC positive but smear negative cases, had a very low parasite number (less than 10 parasites per QBC field). Although QBC method was superior to the smear for malarial parasite detection, species identification was not possible in 26 (7.9%) cases by this technique. In 95.7% (n = 314) QBC positive cases, the buffy coat in the QBC tube appeared pigmented (gray to black). The colour of the buffy coat was therefore considered by us as a predictor of positivity and could be taken as an indicator for a careful and more prolonged search for the parasites. Thus, the QBC technique has its advantages in terms of speed, sensitivity and ease, especially in an endemic area as ours, where the level of parasitaemia is low and more than 70 to 80 smears need to be examined per day. However, the age old Romanowsky stains still appear superior for species identification.