Background: Due to increased travel from endemic countries, malaria occurs more frequently in non-endemic regions. It is a challenge for diagnostic laboratories in non-endemic countries to provide reliable results, as experience of staff is often limited to only a few cases per year. This study evaluated the diagnostic accuracy of the fully automated Sysmex XN-31 malaria analyzer in a routine diagnostic setting in a non-endemic region was evaluated. Methods: Samples from 112 patients suspected for malaria were examined by the Sysmex XN-31 analyzer to determine the absolute count of malaria-infected red blood cells count (MI-RBC/µL). Microscopic examination of both Quantitative Buffy Coat capillary tubes and thick and thin blood films were used as reference methods. Limits of blank (LoB), detection (LoD) and quantification (LoQ) were investigated using an in vitro Plasmodium falciparum culture. Nine hundred twenty samples of patients with RBC abnormalities were included to determine which RBC abnormalities trigger indeterminate or false positive results. Results: No false positive nor false negative results were obtained for the examined patient samples suspected for malaria. For 3% of samples an indeterminate result by the XN-31 was obtained. The Passing-Bablok regression line for diagnostic accuracy of the parasitaemia was y = 39.75 + 0.7892 × showing a positive bias of about 21% when comparing the MI-RBC results to microscopy. The LoB, LoD and LoQ were calculated to be 4.7, 5.9, and 19.0 infected RBC/μL, respectively. From the 920 abnormal RBC samples collected, 4.6% resulted in a false positive MI-RBC result and almost half of the samples produced indeterminate results. These results were related to increases in nucleated red blood cells, reticulocytes and other abnormal RBC morphologies such as sickle cells. Conclusions: Based on the results, the XN-31 is a fast and reliable screening method in the detection and quantification of Plasmodium species in patients However, if an abnormal red blood cell morphology is present, the results of the XN-31 should be interpreted with caution as false positive results can be caused by interfering abnormal erythrocytes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. Matthew McCall, Rianne Stoter and Marga van de Vegte-Bolmer for providing samples of in vitro cultured Plasmodium falciparum NF54 parasites in RBC.
© 2022, The Author(s).