The methods most commonly used to measure malarial antibody titres are the Indirect Fluorescence Antibody Test (IFAT), regarded as the gold standard, and the Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA). The objective here was to assess the diagnostic performance, i.e. the sensitivity and specificity, of a new malaria antibody ELISA kit in comparison to IFAT. This new ELISA kit, the ELISA malaria antibody test (DiaMed), uses a combination of crude soluble Plasmodium falciparum extract and recombinant Plasmodium vivax antigens.
Two groups were used: 95 samples from malaria patients to assess the clinical sensitivity and 2,152 samples from blood donors, who had not been exposed to malaria, to assess the clinical specificity.
The DiaMed ELISA test kit had a clinical sensitivity of 84.2% and a clinical specificity of 99.6% as compared with 70.5% and 99.6% respectively, using the IFAT method. The ELISA method was more sensitive than the IFAT method for P. vivax infections (75% vs. 25%). However, in 923 malaria risk donors the analytical sensitivity of the ELISA test was 40% and its specificity 98.3%, performances impaired by large numbers of equivocal results non-concordant between ELISA and IFAT. When the overall analytical performances of ELISA was compared to IFAT, the ELISA efficiency J index was 0.84 versus 0.71 for IFAT. Overall analytical sensitivity was 93.1% and the analytical specificity 96.7%. Overall agreement between the two methods reached 0.97 with a reliability k index of 0.64.
The DiaMed ELISA test kit shows a good correlation with IFAT for analytical and clinical parameters. It may be an interesting method to replace the IFAT especially in blood banks, but further extensive investigations are needed to examine the analytical performance of the assay, especially in a blood bank setting.