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Field evaluation of the photo-induced electron transfer fluorogenic primers (PET) real-time PCR for the detection of Plasmodium falciparum in Tanzania
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  • Alternative Title:
    Malar J
  • Description:

    Accurate diagnosis of malaria infections remains challenging, especially in the identification of submicroscopic infections. New molecular diagnostic tools that are inexpensive, sensitive enough to detect low-level infections and suitable in laboratory settings of resource-limited countries are required for malaria control and elimination programmes. Here the diagnostic potential of a recently developed photo-induced electron transfer fluorogenic primer (PET) real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) called PET-PCR was investigated. This study aimed to (i) evaluate the use of this assay as a method for the detection of both Plasmodium falciparum and other Plasmodium species infections in a developing country’s diagnostic laboratory; and, (ii) determine the assay’s sensitivity and specificity compared to a nested 18S rRNA PCR.


    Samples used in this study were obtained from a previous study conducted in the region of Iringa, Tanzania. A total of 303 samples from eight health facilities in Tanzania were utilized for this evaluation. All samples were screened using the multiplex PET-PCR assay designed to detect Plasmodium genus and P. falciparum initially in laboratory in Tanzania and then repeated at a reference laboratory at the CDC in the USA. Microscopy data was available for all the 303 samples. A subset of the samples were tested in a blinded fashion to find the sensitivity and specificity of the PET-PCR compared to the nested 18S rRNA PCR.


    Compared to microscopy, the PET-PCR assay was 59% more sensitive in detecting P. falciparum infections. The observed sensitivity and specificity were 100% (95% confidence interval (CI0.95) = 94-100%) and (CI0.95 = 96-100%), respectively, for the PET-PCR assay when compared to nested 18S rRNA PCR. When compared to 18S rRNA PCR, microscopy had a low sensitivity of 40% (CI0.95 = 23-61%) and specificity of 100% (CI0.95 = 96-100%). The PET-PCR results performed in the field laboratory in Tanzania were in 100% concordance with the results obtained at the reference laboratory in the USA.


    The PET-PCR is a new molecular diagnostic tool with similar performance characteristics as commonly used PCR methods that is less expensive, easy to use, and amiable to large scale-surveillance studies in developing country settings.

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