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We present a new application in the field of circulating nucleic acids in plasma: the detection of parasite DNA in plasma. We have investigated the presence of Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum) DNA in the blood cells and plasma of patients with malaria. Ten blood samples from malaria patients and 9 blood samples from healthy volunteers were collected. Plasma was separated and DNA was extracted from both plasma and blood cells. DNA samples were subjected to a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the small subunit rRNA gene of P. falciparum and a control amplification of the human rRNA gene. All 6 cases positive by microscopy for P. falciparum were positive by PCR on DNA extracted from blood cells and plasma. Two cases negative by microscopy for malaria were positive by PCR--the blood samples were taken from one of the cases at 7 days after successful treatment of malaria and the other case at the onset of the malaria illness. Two other cases were negative by microscopy and by PCR on blood cells and plasma, both after successful treatment of malaria. The quantitation of Plasmodium DNA in plasma may prove to be a useful prognostic measurement in malaria, and the detection of P. falciparum DNA in archival stored plasma samples may allow the reconstruction of the recent historic evolution of the parasite genome.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann N Y Acad Sci

Publication Date





234 - 238


Animals, Base Sequence, DNA Primers, DNA, Protozoan, Humans, Plasmodium falciparum, Polymerase Chain Reaction