Indian Journal of Medical Sciences Home 

Year : 2000  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 227--232

Diagnostic accuracy of antigen capture dip - stick assay in falciparum malarial infection

HT Balakrishna1, Prema Saldanha2, Urmila Khadilkar2,  
1 District Malaria Officer, District Laboratory, Hassan District, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Pathology, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore- 575001, India

Correspondence Address:
Urmila Khadilkar
Department of Pathology, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore- 575001

How to cite this article:
Balakrishna H T, Saldanha P, Khadilkar U. Diagnostic accuracy of antigen capture dip - stick assay in falciparum malarial infection.Indian J Med Sci 2000;54:227-232

How to cite this URL:
Balakrishna H T, Saldanha P, Khadilkar U. Diagnostic accuracy of antigen capture dip - stick assay in falciparum malarial infection. Indian J Med Sci [serial online] 2000 [cited 2016 May 27 ];54:227-232
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Full Text

The resurgence of malaria in our country and in particular in Mangalore City made it essential for us to embark upon a better and quicker diagnostic method for malaria detection. In the bygone years, the conventional blood smears were the sole determinants of the presence of malarial infec­tion. In course of time, the emer­gence of the Quantitative Buffy Coat [QBG] technique refind the diagnostic acumen. Yet there were limitations regarding the accurate identification of the species and the parasite stage [particularly in Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) infec­tion], by the QBC method. This forced researchers to look for newer techniques for malaria de­tection and led to the evolution of the Dip-stick antigen capture assay [Parasight-TMF], which relies on the immunogenicity of the parasite, Pf. In the present study, we have made an attempt to compare the diagnostic accuracy of this newer method with that of QBC technique and the erstwhile blood smear.

 Material and Methods

Blood samples were collected from 250 individuals with or with­out symptoms of malaria, in areas endemic for Pf infection in the Hassan District of Karnataka State, as well as from symptomatic indivi­duals admitted at our hospital and other hospitals in Mangalore. In the symptomatic group, spiky fever associated with intractable headache and vomiting were the frequent complaints. The venous blood samples were collected in EDTA, placed in ice and transport­ed to the , laboratory within 6 to 8 hours of collection. Thick and thin blood films were made and stained with Leishman's stain. The smears were examined for asexual forms of Pf. The negative slides were re­read by counting upto 2000 leuco­cytes before classifying the sample as negative. The parasitaemia was confirmed by the QBC rapid fluores­cent technique, which could be done in only 118 samples. In this method the parasite density was estimated by counting the asexual forms against 200 leucocytes [para­sites/µl parasite count x leuco­cytes counted]. The species iden­tification was confirmed indepen­dently by another microscopist.

The performance of the Para­sight-TMF [Becton-Dickinson Com­pany] was determined by correla­tion with the standard thick and thin blood smear method and the QBC technique. Parasight-TMF is a test incorporating a dual antibody immuno-assay against the Pf HRP-­II antigen. Mouse monoclonal anti­bodies directed against the syn­thetic peptide [AHH (AHHAAD) 2 ] [10] from Pf HRPAI are immobilized on a test strip. Pf antigen in lysed fresh whole blood binds to the anti­body as the blood absorbs into the test strip. The antigen immobiliza­tion is indicated as a "dash" just above the mouse atnibody line.

Pf HRP-II antigen-detector rea­gent contains rabbit polyclonal anti­bodies directed against HRP-II anti­gen, that are conjugated to lipo­somes containing pink dye. These antibodies bind to the antigens on the strip giving a control "dash". A solid pink line indicaes a positive test. A "dashed" pink control line and a white to light background will always be present if the test has been performed properly. The species specificity of the dip-stick essay was evaluated by testing with blood samples from cases having non-falciparum malaria [Plasmo­dium vivax (Pv)] and mixed infec­tion [Pf and Pv]. The cross-reacti­vity was assessed in non-plasmo­dium infections like Wuchereria bacrofti.


A total of 250 samples were col­lected for analysis. 104 samples were from Hassan District, 93 pa­tients being symptomatic and 14 asymptomatic. 146 samples were collected from patients with sym­ptoms of Pf infection in Mangalore. Out of the 250 samples, 152 were positive by the dip-stick assay, 94 were negative and 4 were uninter­pretable. The 152 samples, studied by blood film had asexual forms of Pf in 148, while 4 were smear negative. Among the 94 samples which were dip-stick negative, 93 were also smear negative and only one showed occasional parasites. The 4 samples uninterpretable by the dipstick test were found to have negative smears [Table 1]. The 118 samples tested positive by dipstick which were subjected to QBC analysis were all positive. The end-point sensitivity of the dip-stick [Parasight-TMF] test as compared to blood film examination at various levels of parasitaemia is tabulated in [Table 2]. The species specificity and cross-reactivity are illustrated in [Table 3]. The level of parasitae­mia in the symptomatic and asym­ptomatic groups, and the mean standard deviations are given in [Table 4]. Of the 34 patients follow­ed, 4 cases became dip-stick and smear negative on the same day, 10 remained dip-stick positive for 1 to 2 days, and 11 off 7 to 15 days after the smear was negative. No case became dip-stick negative be­fore the blood film.


Detection of Pf antigen by radio­immuno-assay using a cross react­ing antigen was first attempted by Avidor, but proved to be difficult and expensive. [1] It has been found that Plasmodium falciparum infected erythrocytes synthesize 3 histi­dine - rich proteins (HRP I or the knob - associated HRP, HRP II, and HRP III or SHARP. [2] HRP II is of highest abundance and its synthe­sis begins with the ring forms and continues through the trophozoie stage . [3] HRP II is a water-soluble protein. It has been found in all natural isolates of Pf tested, and has been detected in plasma and whole blood. [4] It has also been found in urine. [5] The current demon­stration of Pf HRP 11 in plasma, plus the fact that it is a structurally well­-characterized molecule present in all natural isolates of Pf tested, made Pf HRP II of interest for its potential effects on the host im­mune system and as an antigen for specific diagnosis of malaria. [6],[7],[8],[9],[10] The Parasight-TMF is a quantita­tive/semi-quantitative method which depends on the amount of Pf antigen present. An evaluation of this dip-stick technique (in which a dual antibody incorporated into a paper strip, captures the HRP II antigen of Pr) was undertaken in 250 individuals, 14 of whom were asymptomatic in an area endemic for falciparum malaria, and the re­maining 236 were febrile. Out of this total of 250 samples tested, 152 were positive, 94 negative and 4 uninterpretable by the dip-stick assay [Table 1]. Only 118 samples were simultaneously subjected to QBC testing by fluorescent stain­ing and all were identified positive. 113 of the 118 QBC positive sam­ples were febrile and 5 were asym­ptomatic. The level of parasitaemia in the asympiomatic group was <103µl with a mean standard de­viation (MSD) of 1.857 ± 4.40, and <10/µl with a MSD of 15.147 ± 44.466 in the symptomatic group. The difference in the mean of the two groups was found to be highly significant by the 't' test [Table 4]. A thick and thin smear examination of the 152 dipstick positive cases showed a sensitivity of 99.3%, specificity of 95.87% , a positive predictive value of 97.36% and a negative predictive value of 98.95% [Table 1].

Since most individuals with sym­ptomatic Pf infections have <60 padasites/µl, the dip-stick assay will be of particular use in the ra­pid diagnosis of febrile patients and in epidemiologic field studies. Furthermore, because inexperien­ced microscopists often have diffi­culty in detecting <60 parasites/µl, assessment of the comparative sensitivity of blood film and dip­stick assay among such techni­cians may indicate that the dip-stick has greater sensitivity than the blood smear. Among the 148 in­dividuals who were positive by both drip-stick and blood film, 34 were followed long enough to have negative blood films. Among these, in 4 cases both tests became nega­tive on the same day. 11 had a posi­tive dip-stick 7 to 15 days after the blood film became negative, 10 remained dip-stick positive for only 1 to 2 days after the blood smear was negative, but no case became dip-stick negative before the blood smear. These data indicated that persistence of circulating antigen after the treatment might have ac­counted for the discrepancies bet­ween the dip-stick test and blood smear results. In the 4 cases which were positive by dip-stick and nega­tive by blood film, a positive smear was reported at least once within the previous 20 days in 3 of the cases. The very rare occurence of a false negative Parasight-TMF test with a positive blood film could not be explained. Parasight-TMF is a simple test which requires no spe­cial laboratory equipment, is speedy, with the test procedure spanning only 10 minutes and is a specific method of detecting Pf in­fections obviating the need of a trained microscopist.


Parasight TMF antigen capture assay is comparable to the rapid OBC fluorescent technique in de­tecting malarial infection, even in low parasitaemia. A comparative analysis of the Parasight TMF assay with the conventional, blood smear examination showed a sensitivity of 99.3% specificity of 95.87%, a positive predictive value of 97.36% and a negative predictive value of 98.9%. An apparent false positive result may be expected with the Parasight TMF because the assay detects the antigenaemia even after elimination of viable parasites from the blood stream. Hence the de­cline in antigenaemia after radical curative therapy could be a useful parameter to monitor the Plasmo­dium falciparum malarial infection. The Parasight TMF assay is useful in detecting even subclinical falci­parum malarial infections in asym­ptomatic individuals with a mean parasite count of <10/p1. The very rare occurrence of a false negative Parasight TMF test with a positive blood film could not be explained. The Parasight TMF test is specific for P. falciparurn as there was no cross-reactivity in the antigen-cap­ture of P. vivax or Microfilarial in­fections. Parasight TMF test is a simple test which requires no spe­cial laboratory equipment, it is speedy with the test procedure spanning only 10 minutes, and is a specific method of detecting P. falciparum infections, at the Pri­mary Health Centres, obviating the need of a trained microscopist.


The authosr are grateful to Dr. CV Raghuveer, Professor of Patho­logy for the critical comments and to Dr. KR Shetty, former Director, University Medical Centre, for pro­viding the financial support in pro­curing the Parasight-TMF test kit for evaluation.


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