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Droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) is a partial PCR based on water-oil emulsion droplet technology. It is a highly sensitive method for detecting and delineating minor alleles from complex backgrounds and provides absolute quantification of DNA targets. The ddPCR technology has been applied for detection of many pathogens. Here the sensitive assay utilizing ddPCR for detection and quantification of Plasmodium species was investigated. The assay was developed for two levels of detection, genus specific for all Plasmodium species and for specific Plasmodium species detection. The ddPCR assay was developed based on primers and probes specific to the Plasmodium genus 18S rRNA gene. Using ddPCR for ultra-sensitive P. falciparum assessment, the lower level of detection from concentrated DNA obtained from a high volume (1 mL) blood sample was 11 parasites/mL. For species identification, in particular for samples with mixed infections, a duplex reaction was developed for detection and quantification P. falciparum/ P. vivax and P. malariae/ P. ovale. Amplification of each Plasmodium species in the duplex reaction showed equal sensitivity to singleplex single species detection. The duplex ddPCR assay had higher sensitivity to identify minor species in 32 subpatent parasitaemia samples from Cambodia, and performed better than real-time PCR. The ddPCR assay shows high sensitivity to assess very low parasitaemia of all human Plasmodium species. This provides a useful research tool for studying the role of the asymptomatic parasite reservoir for transmission in regions aiming for malaria elimination.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0175771

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS One

Publication Date

2017

Volume

12

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Cambodia, DNA, Protozoan, Diagnosis, Differential, Emulsions, Female, Humans, Malaria, Malaria, Falciparum, Malaria, Vivax, Male, Middle Aged, Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction, Parasitemia, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium vivax, RNA, Ribosomal, 18S, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, Sensitivity and Specificity