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PCR detection of malaria parasites in desiccated Anopheles mosquitoes is uninhibited by storage time and temperature

Mark A Rider1*, Brian D Byrd12, Joseph Keating3, Dawn M Wesson1 and Kevin A Caillouet14

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, 1430 Tulane Avenue, SL-17, New Orleans, LA, USA, 70112

2 Environmental Health Sciences Program, Western Carolina University, 156 Joyner Drive, Cullowhee, NC, USA, 28723

3 Department of Global Health Systems and Development, Tulane University, 1440 Canal Street, Suite 2200, New Orleans, LA, USA, 70112

4 Department of Biostatistics, Virginia Commonwealth University, 830 East Main Street, 980032, Richmond, VA, USA, 23298

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Malaria Journal 2012, 11:193  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-193

Published: 10 June 2012



Reliable methods to preserve mosquito vectors for malaria studies are necessary for detecting Plasmodium parasites. In field settings, however, maintaining a cold chain of storage from the time of collection until laboratory processing, or accessing other reliable means of sample preservation is often logistically impractical or cost prohibitive. As the Plasmodium infection rate of Anopheles mosquitoes is a central component of the entomological inoculation rate and other indicators of transmission intensity, storage conditions that affect pathogen detection may bias malaria surveillance indicators. This study investigated the effect of storage time and temperature on the ability to detect Plasmodium parasites in desiccated Anopheles mosquitoes by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).


Laboratory-infected Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes were chloroform-killed and stored over desiccant for 0, 1, 3, and 6 months while being held at four different temperatures: 28, 37, -20 and -80°C. The detection of Plasmodium DNA was evaluated by real-time PCR amplification of a 111 base pair region of block 4 of the merozoite surface protein.


Varying the storage time and temperature of desiccated mosquitoes did not impact the sensitivity of parasite detection. A two-way factorial analysis of variance suggested that storage time and temperature were not associated with a loss in the ability to detect parasites. Storage of samples at 28°C resulted in a significant increase in the ability to detect parasite DNA, though no other positive associations were observed between the experimental storage treatments and PCR amplification.


Cold chain maintenance of desiccated mosquito samples is not necessary for real-time PCR detection of parasite DNA. Though field-collected mosquitoes may be subjected to variable conditions prior to molecular processing, the storage of samples over an inexpensive and logistically accessible desiccant will likely ensure accurate assessment of malaria parasite presence without diminishing PCR-detection of parasites in mosquitoes stored for at least six months.

Plasmodium parasite detection; DNA; Temperature; Desicant; Anopheles; Storage