Detection and species identification of malaria parasites by isothermal tHDA amplification directly from human blood without sample preparation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Molecular Diagnostics








We report the clinical and analytical performance of an isothermal thermophilic helicase-dependent amplification assay for blood Plasmodium parasite detection and species-level identification. The assay amplifies the 18S rRNA gene fragment of all Plasmodium species and uses a species-specific probe and a pan-malarial probe to definitively identify Plasmodium falciparum from other infectious Plasmodium species. Amplicon-probe hybridization products are detected with a disposable dipstick enclosed in a cassette. With a pan-malarial-positive and P. falciparum-negative result, an additional test is performed to detect if the pan-malarial-positive band was the result of the presence of Plasmodium vivax. The assay uses only 2 μL of human whole blood directly for a 50-μL amplification reaction, without any pre-amplification processing. The clinical performance of the assay was validated using 88 samples from New York patients suspected of malaria or babesiosis. The overall sensitivity of the assay was 96.6% (95% CI, 87.3% to 99.4%), and the specificity was 100% (95% CI, 85.4% to 100%), compared with gold standard microscopy and a laboratory-developed molecular assay, respectively. The analytical sensitivity was 50 copies of DNA per assay or 200 parasites per microliter of blood, and the assay can detect samples with parasitemia levels <1%. This novel molecular diagnostic assay requires minimal laboratory instrumentation and uses un-processed blood as input; it can be readily performed in the field. © 2013 American Society for Investigative Pathology and the Association for Molecular Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.