27 January 2013

Nigeria: Scientists Develop Enhanced Malaria Test

The search for an improved malaria test has received a boost as scientists from the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin have developed a method for detecting malaria parasites in mosquito vectors that could help yield better estimates of malaria transmission intensity in different settings.

In a study published in PLoS ONE,the new technique detects and identifies the four Plasmodium species in the principal mosquito vectors, Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles funestus. It also enables scientists to detect 'mixed' malaria infections where more than one type of Plasmodium parasite is present.

They maintained that the new malaria test is 98 per cent accurate.

Detects and identifies the four Plasmodium species, which could lead to better estimates of transmission intensity.

The technique optimises polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, a laboratory technique that amplifies and quantifies DNA molecules.

The researchers also say their method is more accurate than the traditional technique, which is based on the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test, a standard laboratory diagnostic test that uses antibodies and colour change to detect DNA molecules.

"This study presents an optimised method for detecting the four Plasmodium species in African malaria vectors," say the authors. They say it could be an "accurate molecular diagnostic tool for detecting malaria parasites in field mosquito populations".

One of the authors, Nicaise Tuikue Ndam, and a researcher at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin,said that ELISA measures a specific antigen that detects a single parasite. This older technique can lead to the overestimation of the malaria burden as the antigen used is not very specific.

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