The simian parasite Plasmodium knowlesi is now the commonest cause of malaria in Malaysia and can rapidly cause severe and fatal malaria. However, microscopic misdiagnosis of Plasmodium species is common, rapid antigen detection tests remain insufficiently sensitive and confirmation of P. knowlesi requires polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Thus available point-of-care diagnostic tests are inadequate. This study reports the development of a simple, sensitive, colorimetric, high-throughput loop-mediated isothermal amplification assay (HtLAMP) diagnostic test using novel primers for the detection of P. knowlesi. This assay is able to detect 0.2 parasites/μL, and compared with PCR has a sensitivity of 96% for the detection of P. knowlesi, making it a potentially field-applicable point-of-care diagnostic tool.
Geographical variations of snake venoms can result in suboptimal effectiveness of Indian antivenoms that are currently used in most South Asian countries. This study investigated the toxicity and neutralization profile of the venom and toxins from Pakistani spectacled cobra, Naja naja, using VINS polyvalent antivenom (VPAV, India), Naja kaouthia monovalent antivenom (NKMAV, Thailand), and neuro bivalent antivenom (NBAV, Taiwan). Cation-exchange and reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography fractionations followed by toxin identification through liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (MS)/MS indicated that the venom comprised mainly of postsynaptic neurotoxins (NTXs) (long neurotoxins [LNTXs], 28.3%; short neurotoxins [SNTXs], 8%), cytotoxins (CTXs) (31.2%), and acidic phospholipases A2 (12.3%). NKMAV is the most effective in neutralizing the lethal effect of the venom (potency = 1.1 mg venom/mL) and its LNTX (potency = 0.5 mg toxin/mL), consistent with the high content of LNTX in N. kaouthia venom. VPAV was effective in neutralizing the CTX (potency = 0.4 mg toxin/mL), in agreement with the higher CTX abundance in Indian cobra venom. All the three antivenoms were weak in neutralizing the SNTX (potency = 0.03-0.04 mg toxin/mL), including NBAV that was raised from the SNTX-rich Taiwanese cobra venom. In a challenge-rescue experiment, envenomed mice were prevented from death by a maximal dose of VPAV (intravenous 200 μL) but the recovery from paralysis was slow, indicating the need for higher or repeated doses of VPAV. Our results suggest that optimal neutralization for Pakistani N. naja venom may be achieved by improving the formulation of antivenom production to enhance antivenom immunoreactivity against long and SNTXs.
The human alphacoronaviruses HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-229E are commonly associated with upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). Information on their molecular epidemiology and evolutionary dynamics in the tropical region of southeast Asia however is limited. Here, we analyzed the phylogenetic, temporal distribution, population history, and clinical manifestations among patients infected with HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-229E. Nasopharyngeal swabs were collected from 2,060 consenting adults presented with acute URTI symptoms in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 2012 and 2013. The presence of HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-229E was detected using multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The spike glycoprotein, nucleocapsid, and 1a genes were sequenced for phylogenetic reconstruction and Bayesian coalescent inference. A total of 68/2,060 (3.3%) subjects were positive for human alphacoronavirus; HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-229E were detected in 45 (2.2%) and 23 (1.1%) patients, respectively. A peak in the number of HCoV-NL63 infections was recorded between June and October 2012. Phylogenetic inference revealed that 62.8% of HCoV-NL63 infections belonged to genotype B, 37.2% was genotype C, while all HCoV-229E sequences were clustered within group 4. Molecular dating analysis indicated that the origin of HCoV-NL63 was dated to 1921, before it diverged into genotype A (1975), genotype B (1996), and genotype C (2003). The root of the HCoV-229E tree was dated to 1955, before it diverged into groups 1-4 between the 1970s and 1990s. The study described the seasonality, molecular diversity, and evolutionary dynamics of human alphacoronavirus infections in a tropical region.
We report a rare case of an asymptomatic latent melioidosis lesion in a posttraumatic splenectomy specimen from a diabetic patient. The 2-cm yellowish, lobulated lesion was found in the splenic parenchyma well away from the traumatized areas. Microscopically, it consisted of a central area of necrosis and exudate surrounded by macrophages, epithelioid cells, lymphocytes, and occasional multinucleated giant cells. Burkholderia bacilli were detected by a novel in situ hybridization (ISH) assay, and confirmed by polymerase chain reaction and sequencing to be Burkholderia pseudomallei. As melioidosis was not suspected initially, bacterial culture was not done but electron microscopy showed morphologically viable and dividing bacilli in the lesion. Moreover, the surgical wound became infected with B. pseudomallei several days post-surgery. After treatment with ceftazidime and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, the wound infection cleared. We believe this could be a unique case of asymptomatic latent melioidosis in the spleen. In endemic countries, chronic granulomas should be investigated for B. pseudomallei infection, and if available, ISH may be helpful for diagnosis.
We present the results of a laboratory-based surveillance of dengue in Taiwan in 2014. A total of 240 imported dengue cases were identified. The patients had arrived from 16 countries, and Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China were the most frequent importing countries. Phylogenetic analyses showed that genotype I of dengue virus type 1 (DENV-1) and the cosmopolitan genotype of DENV-2 were the predominant DENV strains circulating in southeast Asia. The 2014 dengue epidemic was the largest ever to occur in Taiwan since World War II, and there were 15,492 laboratory-confirmed indigenous dengue cases. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the explosive dengue epidemic in southern Taiwan was caused by a DENV-1 strain of genotype I imported from Indonesia. There were several possible causes of this outbreak, including delayed notification of the outbreak, limited staff and resources for control measures, abnormal weather conditions, and a serious gas pipeline explosion in the dengue hot spot areas in Kaohsiung City. However, the results of this surveillance indicated that both active and passive surveillance systems should be strengthened so appropriate public health measures can be taken promptly to prevent large-scale dengue outbreaks.
Insecticide-treated mosquito nets were first put to practical use in the Western Pacific Region. Less than a decade after conducting workshops and other promotional activities, millions of people were protected by 1989. This occurred before the availability of commercially produced pretreated nets and before global funding for mass net distribution. This paper describes the sequence of steps leading to regional control success. The beginning stages in 1979 recognized that treating torn mosquito nets was a viable control option. Basic net treatment procedures were established by 1983 and workshops were held the next 2 years in China, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. Malaria staff became convinced of net benefits and were motivated to impart their knowledge to others. Village inhabitants soaked the nets in washbasins containing permethrin or deltamethrin solution, then dried them horizontally on mats. By the 1990s, the population protected by nets had appreciably increased, and regional malaria cases confirmed by microscopy were markedly reduced. This coincided with commercial interest to mass-produce pretreated mosquito nets for worldwide use.
Vertical transmission may contribute to the maintenance of arthropod-borne viruses, but its existence in chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is unclear. Experimental vertical transmission of infectious clones of CHIKV in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from Malaysia was investigated. Eggs and adult progeny from the second gonotrophic cycles of infected parental mosquitoes were tested. Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), 56.3% of pooled eggs and 10% of adult progeny had detectable CHIKV RNA, but no samples had detectable infectious virus by plaque assay. Transfected CHIKV RNA from PCR-positive eggs did not yield infectious virus in BHK-21 cells. Thus, vertical transmission of viable CHIKV was not demonstrated. Noninfectious CHIKV RNA persists in eggs and progeny of infected Ae. aegypti, but the mechanism and significance are unknown. There is insufficient evidence to conclude that vertical transmission exists in CHIKV, as positive results reported in previous studies were almost exclusively based only on viral RNA detection.
The lack of rapid, affordable, and accurate diagnostic tests represents the primary hurdle affecting malaria surveillance in resource- and expertise-limited areas. Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) is a sensitive, rapid, and cheap diagnostic method. Five species-specific LAMP assays were developed based on 18S rRNA gene. Sensitivity and specificity of LAMP results were calculated as compared with microscopic examination and nested polymerase chain reaction. LAMP reactions were highly sensitive with the detection limit of one copy for Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium falciparum, and Plasmodium malariae and 10 copies for Plasmodium knowlesi and Plasmodium ovale. LAMP positively detected all human malaria species in all positive samples (N = 134; sensitivity = 100%) within 35 minutes. All negative samples were not amplified by LAMP (N = 67; specificity = 100%). LAMP successfully detected two samples with very low parasitemia. LAMP may offer a rapid, simple, and reliable test for the diagnosis of malaria in areas where malaria is prevalent.
Toxoplasmosis in humans and other animals is caused by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. During the process of host cell invasion and parasitophorous vacuole formation by the tachyzoites, the parasite secretes Rhoptry protein 8 (ROP8), an apical secretory organelle. Thus, ROP8 is an important protein for the pathogenesis of T. gondii. The ROP8 DNA was constructed into a pVAX-1 vaccine vector and used for immunizing BALB/c mice. Immunized mice developed immune response characterized by significant antibody responses, antigen-specific proliferation of spleen cells, and production of high levels of IFN-γ (816 ± 26.3 pg/mL). Challenge experiments showed significant levels of increase in the survival period (29 days compared with 9 days in control) in ROP8 DNA vaccinated mice after a lethal challenge with T. gondii. Results presented in this study suggest that ROP8 DNA is a promising and potential vaccine candidate against toxoplasmosis.
Plasmodium knowlesi is now known as the fifth Plasmodium species that can cause human malaria. The Plasmodium merozoite surface protein (MSP) has been reported to be potential target for vaccination and diagnosis of malaria. MSP-1(33) has been shown to be immunogenic and its T cell epitopes could mediate cellular immune protection. However, limited studies have focused on P. knowlesi MSP-133. In this study, an approximately 28-kDa recombinant P. knowlesi MSP-1(33) (pkMSP-1(33)) was expressed by using an Escherichia coli system. The purified pkMSP-1(33) reacted with serum samples of patients infected with P. knowlesi (31 of 31, 100%) and non-P. knowlesi malaria (27 of 28, 96.43%) by Western blotting. The pkMSP-1(33) also reacted with P. knowlesi (25 of 31, 80.65%) and non-P. knowlesi malaria sera (20 of 28, 71.43%) in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Most of the non-malarial infection (49 of 52 in by Western blotting and 46 of 52 in the ELISA) and healthy donor serum samples (65 of 65 by Western blotting and ELISA) did not react with recombinant pkMSP-1(33).
Rats are considered the principal maintenance hosts of Leptospira. The objectives of this study were isolation and identification of Leptospira serovars circulating among urban rat populations in Kuala Lumpur. Three hundred urban rats (73% Rattus rattus and 27% R. norvegicus) from three different sites were trapped. Twenty cultures were positive for Leptospira using dark-field microscopy. R. rattus was the dominant carrier (70%). Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) confirmed that all isolates were pathogenic Leptospira species. Two Leptospira serogroups, Javanica and Bataviae, were identified using microscopic agglutination test (MAT). Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) identified two serovars in the urban rat populations: L. borgpetersenii serovar Javanica (85%) and L. interrogans serovar Bataviae (15%). We conclude that these two serovars are the major serovars circulating among the urban rat populations in Kuala Lumpur. Despite the low infection rate reported, the high pathogenicity of these serovars raises concern of public health risks caused by rodent transmission of leptospirosis.
Co-infection of melioidosis and leptospirosis is uncommon. We report here four such cases, confirmed by blood culture for melioidosis and blood polymerase-chain reaction for leptospirosis, which occurred among rescuers involved in a search and rescue operation for a young man who was suspected to have drowned in Lubuk Yu, a recreational forest in Pahang, Malaysia. Despite treatment, three of the patients died from the co-infection.
Dengue represents a substantial burden in many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. We estimated the economic burden of dengue illness in Malaysia. Information about economic burden is needed for setting health policy priorities, but accurate estimation is difficult because of incomplete data. We overcame this limitation by merging multiple data sources to refine our estimates, including an extensive literature review, discussion with experts, review of data from health and surveillance systems, and implementation of a Delphi process. Because Malaysia has a passive surveillance system, the number of dengue cases is under-reported. Using an adjusted estimate of total dengue cases, we estimated an economic burden of dengue illness of US$56 million (Malaysian Ringgit MYR196 million) per year, which is approximately US$2.03 (Malaysian Ringgit 7.14) per capita. The overall economic burden of dengue would be even higher if we included costs associated with dengue prevention and control, dengue surveillance, and long-term sequelae of dengue.
Plasma leakage in severe dengue has been postulated to be associated with skewed cytokine immune responses. In this study, the association of cytokines with vascular permeability in dengue patients was investigated. Human serum samples collected from 48 persons (13 with dengue fever, 29 with dengue hemorrhagic fever, and 6 healthy) were subjected to cytokines analysis by using Luminex Multiplex Technology. Selected serum samples from patients with dengue hemorrhagic fever sera and recombinant human cytokines were then tested for roles on inducing vascular permeability by treatment of human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Confocal immunofluorescence staining indicated morphologic alteration of human umbilical vein endothelial cells treated with serum samples from patients with dengue hemorrhagic fever compared with serum samples from healthy persons. The findings suggest that cytokines produced during dengue hemorrhagic infections could induce alterations in the vascular endothelium, which may play a fundamental role in the pathophysiology of dengue.
Species identification of human hookworm infections among eight communities in rural areas of Peninsular Malaysia was determined during 2009-2011. Fecal samples were examined by microscopy and subsequently, the internal transcribed spacer 2 and 28S ribosomal RNA region of Necator americanus and Ancylostoma spp. were sequenced. Overall, 9.1% (58 of 634) were identified positive by microscopy for hookworm infection, and 47 (81.0%) of 58 were successfully amplified and sequenced. Sequence comparison found that N. americanus (87.2%) was the most predominant hookworm identified, followed by Ancylostoma ceylanicum (23.4%). No A. duodenale infection was detected in this study. Detection of A. ceylanicum in humans highlighted the zoonotic transmission among humans living near dogs. Thus, implementation of effective control measures for hookworm infections in future should seriously consider this zoonotic implication.
Dengue fever, an arbovirus disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, has recently spread rapidly, especially in the tropical countries of the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions. It is endemic in Malaysia, with an annual average of 37,937 reported dengue cases from 2007 to 2012. This study measured the overall economic impact of dengue in Malaysia, and estimated the costs of dengue prevention. In 2010, Malaysia spent US$73.5 million or 0.03% of the country's GDP on its National Dengue Vector Control Program. This spending represented US$1,591 per reported dengue case and US$2.68 per capita population. Most (92.2%) of this spending occurred in districts, primarily for fogging. A previous paper estimated the annual cost of dengue illness in the country at US$102.2 million. Thus, the inclusion of preventive activities increases the substantial estimated cost of dengue to US$175.7 million, or 72% above illness costs alone. If innovative technologies for dengue vector control prove efficacious, and a dengue vaccine was introduced, substantial existing spending could be rechanneled to fund them.
This study was performed to identify circulating Plasmodium falciparum proteins in patient serum, which may be useful as diagnostic markers. Depletion of highly abundant proteins from each pooled serum sample obtained from P. falciparum-infected patients and healthy individuals was performed using the Proteoseek Antibody-Based Albumin/IgG Removal Kit (Thermo Scientific, Rockford, IL). In analysis 1, the depleted serum was analyzed directly by NanoLC-MS/MS. In analysis 2, the depleted serum was separated by two-dimensional electrophoresis followed by western blot analysis. Subsequently, the selected band was analyzed by NanoLC-MS/MS. The result of analysis 1 revealed the presence of two mature erythrocyte surface antigen (MESA) proteins and chloroquine resistance transporter protein (PfCRT). In addition, analysis 2 revealed an antigenic 75-kDa band when the membrane was probed with purified IgG from the pooled serum obtained from P. falciparum-infected patients. MS/MS analysis of this protein band revealed fragments of P. falciparum MESA proteins. Thus, in this study, two different analyses revealed the presence of Plasmodium MESA protein in pooled serum from malaria patients; thus, this protein should be further investigated to determine its usefulness as a diagnostic marker.
While visiting Malaysia, a 22-year-old previously healthy Japanese man developed myalgia, headache, and fever, leading to a diagnosis of classical dengue fever. After improvement and returning to Japan after a five day hospitalization, he developed productive cough several days after defervescing from dengue. Computed tomography (CT) thorax scan showed multiple lung cavities. A sputum smear revealed leukocytes with phagocytized gram-positive cocci in clusters, and grew an isolate Staphylococcus aureus sensitive to semi-synthetic penicillin; he was treated successfully with ceftriaxone and cephalexin. This second reported case of pneumonia due to S. aureus occurring after dengue fever, was associated both with nosocomial exposure and might have been associated with dengue-associated immunosuppression. Clinicians should pay systematic attention to bacterial pneumonia following dengue fever to establish whether such a connection is causally associated.
A cross-sectional study was conducted to provide comprehensive data on the patterns and associated risk factors of soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections among five Orang Asli subgroups in Peninsular Malaysia. The overall prevalence of STH infections was 59.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 56.1-63.7%). Trichuris trichiura (54.3%; 95% CI = 50.4-58.2%) was the predominant species followed by Ascaris lumbricoides (26.7%; 95% CI = 23.3-30.1%) and hookworm (9.1%; 95% CI = 6.9-11.3%). This study showed diversity for STH infections by subgroup with poverty and personal sanitary behavior as important risk factors for infection. Risk profile analyses indicating that Orang Kuala subgroup who has a generally well-developed infrastructure and better quality of life had a low rate of infection. There is a need for poverty reduction and promotion of deworming programs along with mass scale campaigns to create awareness about health and hygiene to reduce STH infections.
We report the largest outbreak of brucellosis in Penang, Malaysia. Brucellosis is not endemic in this region. The index case was a 45-year-old goat farm owner presented with 3 weeks of fever, headache, severe lethargy, poor appetite, and excessive sweating. He claimed to have consumed unpasteurized goat's milk that he had also sold to the public. Tests were negative for tropical diseases (i.e., dengue fever, malaria, leptospirosis and scrub typhus) and blood culture showed no growth. Based on epidemiological clues, Brucella serology was ordered and returned positive. Over a period of 1 year, 79 patients who had consumed milk bought from the same farm were diagnosed with brucellosis. Two of these patients were workers on the farm. Four laboratory staff had also contracted the disease presumably through handling of the blood samples. The mean duration from onset of symptoms to diagnosis was 53 days with a maximum duration of 210 days. A combination treatment of rifampin and doxycycline for 6 weeks was the first line of treatment in 90.5% of patients. One-third of the patients had sequelae after recovering and 21% had a relapse. We highlight the importance of Brucellosis as a differential diagnosis when a patient has unexplained chronic fever.