A nationwide study of imported Plasmodium ovale and mixed infections in Israel 2008-2020

J Travel Med. 2022 Jul 14;29(4):taab192. doi: 10.1093/jtm/taab192.


Background: Plasmodium ovale is a rather neglected plasmodium. Rarity, a milder disease, and diagnostic difficulties compared with P. falciparum and P. vivax have led to this situation. This study's objective is to present the epidemiological and diagnostical characteristics of imported P. ovale malaria in Israel.

Methods: Malaria is a reportable disease in Israel. All highly suspected cases are sent to the Ministry of Health central parasitology laboratory for molecular verification. We retrieved epidemiological and diagnostic data on all polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-proven P. ovale infections imported to between 2008 and 2020.

Results: In total, 508 malaria cases were identified, 489 monoinfections and 19 (3.7%) mixed. Fifty-one (10%) were due to P. ovale, among them 13 (25%) were mixed, comprising 68% of all mixed infections. Forty-eight of 51 (94%) underwent blood microscopy, with a sensitivity of 94% (45/48) for genus identification and 15% (7/48) for P. ovale identification. Only 8% (1/12) of mixed infections were identified as such by microscopy. Forty-two (82%) patients underwent RDTs, with a sensitivity of 69% (29/42) for genus identification, and 62% (26/42) for identifying non-falciparum infections. Cycle threshold (Ct) values of P. ovale were significantly higher compared with P. falciparum and P. vivax in both mono and mixed infections (P < 0.05, P < 0.005). Ct levels in RDT positive vs negative infections differed significantly (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: P. ovale is commonly imported to Israel from Africa, with a high rate of mixed infections. The use of RDTs and microscopy is insufficient for the species-specific diagnosis of P. ovale, and must be complemented by PCR.

Keywords: Africa; PCR; RDT; Travelers; diagnostics; malaria; microscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Coinfection*
  • Humans
  • Israel / epidemiology
  • Malaria* / diagnosis
  • Malaria* / epidemiology
  • Malaria* / parasitology
  • Malaria, Vivax* / diagnosis
  • Malaria, Vivax* / epidemiology
  • Plasmodium ovale*
  • Plasmodium*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity