Assessment of a simplified method for counting leukocytic malaria pigment

Lell B, Missinou MA, Issifou S, Matsiegui PB, Olola CH, Taylor TE, Kremsner PG
Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2005;73

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Severe and fatal malaria is associated with the increased presence of malaria hemozoin in peripheral phagocytes. Large studies of this relationship are hampered by the fact that identifying and counting phagocytes on thick blood smears is time consuming. Distinguishing which mononuclear cells are monocytes and which granulocytes are neutrophils requires time and careful training. In this study, we evaluated a simplified method in which only the proportions of hemozoin-containing mononuclear cells and granulocytes are counted. Thick blood films from 471 Gabonese children with malaria were evaluated. We found a linear relationship and a strong correlation between the proportions of hemozoin-containing monocytes versus mononuclear cells (r = 0.85) and neutrophils versus polymorphonuclear cells (r = 0.93), respectively. The two methods had similar predictive values, as estimated by receiver operating characteristics curves. This simplified method can be used to estimate the amount of extra-erythrocytic pigment in peripheral blood, and we suggest that it may be particularly suitable for very large studies.