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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

Types of Malaria Tests

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a pathogenic parasite. This parasite is usually carried by the female mosquitoes, and when the infected mosquito bites a person the parasite enters into the bloodstream and destroys the oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Malaria can take a few weeks to even years to show symptoms. It’s because the parasite that causes it can incubate in the liver for a long time.

Diagnosis of Malaria

The symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and alternating chills which warrent immediate medical attention. Malaria is considered as a potential medical emergency by the WHO and should be treated accordingly.

Any delay in the diagnosis and treatment of malaria can lead to the death of the patient suffering from it. It’s extremely necessary to recognize malaria promptly in order to treat the patient in time and prevent the further spread of infection via local mosquitoes in the community.

Types of Tests for Malaria

  1. Thick and thin blood smears

It is a type of blood test that helps identify any abnormalities in your red blood cells. It is the most common test carried out to diagnose malaria.

  1. In this test, a lab technician, nurse, or a doctor will withdraw a few ml of your blood.

  2. The blood sample is sent to the lab where the technician makes thick and thin blood smears on slides.

  3. Here, a ‘thin blood smear’ refers to the technician spreading one drop of blood across most of the slide whereas, a ‘thick blood smear’ is the spreading of a single drop of blood on a smaller area.

  4. After the thin and thick blood smears are made, the slides are then investigated under a microscope to identify the number of malarial parasites.

Limitation: Thick and thin blood smear tests don’t provide accurate results most of the time. This is because the number of malaria parasites in your blood can change every day which may mislead the diagnosis of malaria.

  1. Rapid diagnostic test

Rapid diagnostic tests (RDT’s) are used as an alternative to the diagnosis of malaria where good quality microscopy services cannot be readily provided.

  1. RDT’s is an antigen testing method and is a quick option to detect if you have malaria or not.

  2. RDT for malaria involves putting the blood sample taken from a finger prick on a test strip.

  3. The test strip is already provided in the RDT kit.

  4. The change in the colour of the strip represents whether you have malaria or not.

         Limitation: RDT’s are unable to diagnose the type of malaria and its severity.

  1. Molecular test

A molecular diagnosis, also known as a polymerase chain reaction test, is a technique enabling sensitive detection. It detects the parasite by amplifying its trace quantities found in samples.

This test can help identify the type of malarial parasite, which aids in better treatment by helping the doctor prescribe drugs specific to the Types of Malaria Tests.

This test can provide accurate results in case your blood has a low number of parasites or when other tests have failed to provide accurate results.

Limitation: There is a possibility of contamination due to the spread of amplicon aerosols in a laboratory environment.

  1. Antibody test

This test is used to determine if a patient has been infected with Plasmodium in the past. It detects any antibodies present in the blood in response to malaria infection. It helps identify the blood donors who may have passed the parasite during blood-transfusion.

This test helps detect the individuals who have relatively low malarial parasites. (below the detectable level)

Drug resistance test

It has been found out that some malarial parasites become resistant to the treatment. In such a case, drug resistance test is carried out to provide the patient with the best treatment. It is usually of two types:

In vitro tests: In this test, the parasites isolated from the patient are grown in a culture medium in a laboratory environment. The culture is provided with the increasing concentrations of drugs; the drug concentration that is able to inhibit the parasite growth is used as an endpoint.

Molecular characterization: Molecular characterization by PCR technique amplifies various strains of the parasite and allows its prediction, as well as to some degree, of resistance to some drugs.

  1. Blood test

Blood tests for malaria help identify blood count and the chemistry panel of the blood. This may help your doctor identify the severity of the infection or any other problems caused Types of Malaria Tests which include anaemia or kidney failure.

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