Sampling and storage of blood and the detection of malaria parasites by polymerase chain reaction

Anna Färnert, Ana Paula Arez, Ana Teresa Correia, Anders Björkman, Georges Snounou, Virgilio Estólio do Rosário

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59 Citations (Scopus)


Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is now widely used in malaria research for analysis of field samples. However, little has been reported regarding loss of sensitivity due to field methodology. Therefore, studies were carried out in relation to blood sampling (anticoagulants, culture medium, filter paper), storage (temperature, time and immediate lysis) and handling (repeated thawing and freezing). The PCR was unaffected by citrate and EDTA but partly inhibited by heparin (inhibition was reversed by heparinase at optimal concentrations). Samples collected on filter paper showed a significant 100-fold lower sensitivity (compared to control samples frozen immediately after collection) when stored at 30°C and 60% humidity; and the paper quality appeared to be critical. Storage of unprocessed whole blood at 4°C, 20°C or 30°C rarely resulted in any loss of sensitivity. Repeated thawing generally resulted in 10-fold loss of sensitivity compared to blood kept frozen until DNA extraction. The presence of antimalarial drug did not apparently affect sensitivity. We conclude that the mode of collection and storage of blood samples may influence the sensitivity of detection of malaria parasites by PCR. This may be critical in studies including individuals with low parasitaemia, mixed infections and comparison of data from different settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-53
Number of pages4
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999


  • Anticoagulant
  • Blood
  • Filter paper
  • Malaria
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Sampling
  • Storage


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