Multiplex qPCR for Detection and Absolute Quantification of Malaria

Edwin Kamau*, Saba Alemayehu, Karla C. Feghali, David Saunders, Christian F. Ockenhouse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


We describe development of an absolute multiplex quantitative real-time PCR for detection of Plasmodium spp., P. falciparum and P. vivax targets in order to produce an assay amenable to high throughput but with reduced costs. Important qPCR experimental details and information that is critical to performance and reliability of assay results were investigated. Inhibition studies were performed to test and compare co-purification of PCR inhibitors in samples extracted from whole blood using either the manual or automated methods. To establish the most optimal qPCR reaction volume, volume titration of the reaction master mix was performed starting at 10 μl to 1 μl reaction master mix with 1 μl of template DNA in each reaction. As the reaction volume decreased, qPCR assays became more efficient with 1 μl reaction master mix being the most efficient. For more accurate quantification of parasites in a sample, we developed plasmid DNAs for all the three assay targets for absolute quantification. All of absolute qPCR assays performed with efficiency of more than 94%, R2 values greater than 0.99 and the STDEV of each replicate was <0.167. Linear regression plots generated from absolute qPCR assays were used to estimate the corresponding parasite density from relative qPCR in terms of parasite/μl. One copy of plasmid DNA was established to be equivalent to 0.1 parasite/μl for Plasmodium spp. assay, 0.281 parasites for P. falciparum assay and 0.127 parasite/μl for P. vivax assay. This study demonstrates for the first time use of plasmid DNA in absolute quantification of malaria parasite. The use of plasmid DNA standard in quantification of malaria parasite will be critical as efforts are underway to harmonize molecular assays used in diagnosis of malaria.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere71539
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 29 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


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