METHODS: The halogen lamp was replaced by a low-cost, blue light-emitting diode (LED) lamp. Using a reformulated AO solution, the staining protocol was revised to make use of a concentration gradient instead of uniform staining. To evaluate this new AO diagnostic system, a pilot field study was conducted in the Lake Victoria basin in Kenya.
RESULTS: Without staining failure, malaria infection status of about 100 samples was determined on-site per one microscopist per day, using the improved AO diagnostic system. The improved AO diagnosis had both higher overall sensitivity (46.1 vs 38.9%: p = 0.08) and specificity (99.0 vs 96.3%) than the Giemsa method (N = 1018), using PCR diagnosis as the standard.
CONCLUSIONS: Consistent AO staining of thin blood films and rapid evaluation of malaria parasitaemia with the revised protocol produced superior results relative to the Giemsa method. This AO diagnostic system can be set up easily at low cost using an ordinary light microscope. It may supplement rapid diagnostic tests currently used in clinical settings in malaria-endemic countries, and may be considered as an inexpensive tool for case surveillance in malaria-eliminating countries.