Detection of Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms in Plasmodium falciparum by PCR Primer Extension and Lateral Flow Immunoassay

Moers, A.P.H.A.; Hallett, R.L.; Borrow, R.; Schallig, H.D.F.H.; Sutherland, C.J.; Amerongen, A. van


The resistance of Plasmodium falciparum to some antimalarial drugs is linked to single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Currently, there are no methods for the identification of resistant parasites that are sufficiently simple, cheap, and fast enough to be performed at point-of-care, i.e., in local hospitals where drugs are prescribed. Primer extension methods (PEXT) were developed to identify 4 SNPs in P. falciparum positioned at amino acids 86, 184, and 1246 of the P. falciparum multidrug resistance 1 gene (pfmdr1) and amino acid 76 of the chloroquine resistance transporter gene (pfcrt). The PEXT products were visualized by a nucleic acid lateral flow immunoassay (NALFIA) with carbon nanoparticles as the detection labels. PCR-PEXT-NALFIAs showed good correlation to the reference methods, quantitative PCR (qPCR) or direct amplicon sequence analysis, in an initial open-label evaluation with 17 field samples. The tests were further evaluated in a blind study design in a set of 150 patient isolates. High specificities of 98 to 100% were found for all 4 PCR-PEXT genotyping assays. The sensitivities ranged from 75% to 100% when all PEXT-positive tests were considered. A number of samples with a low parasite density were successfully characterized by the reference methods but failed to generate a result in the PCR-PEXT-NALFIA, particularly those samples with microscopy-negative subpatent infections. This proof-of principle study validates the use of PCR-PEXT-NALFIA for the detection of resistance-associated mutations in P. falciparum, particularly for microscopy-positive infections. Although it requires a standard thermal cycler, the procedure is cheap and rapid and thus a potentially valuable tool for point-of-care detection in developing countries