BACKGROUND: Epidemiological surveillance is a key activity in malaria control and elimination in low-transmission and pre-elimination settings. Hence, sensitive tools for estimating malaria force of infection are crucial. Serological markers might provide additional information in estimating force of infection in low-endemic areas along with classical parasite detection methods. Serological markers can be used to estimate recent, past or present malaria exposure, depending on the used markers and their half-life.
METHODS: An assay based on 14 Plasmodium-specific peptides, one peptide specific for Anopheles gambiae saliva protein and five Plasmodium-specific recombinant proteins was developed for the MAGPIX system, assessed for its performance, and applied on blood spots from 2000 individuals collected in the Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia.
RESULTS: A significant correlation for the use of 1000 and 2000 beads/antigen/well as well as for the monoplex versus multiplex assay was observed for all antigens (p < 0.05). For the majority of antigens, antigen-coupled beads were stable for at least 2 months. The assay was very reproducible with limited intercoupling, interplate and intraplate variability (mean RSD <15 %). Estimating seroconversion and seroreversion per antigen using reversible catalytic models and models allowing two seroconversion rates showed higher seroconversion rates in adults.
CONCLUSION: The multiplex bead-based immunoassay was successfully implemented and analysis of field blood samples shows that changes detected in force of malaria infection vary according to the serological markers used. Multivariate analysis of the antibody responses and insights into the half-life of antibodies are crucial for improving the interpretation of these results and for identifying the most useful serological markers of past and recent malaria infection.