A method for reducing the sloughing of thick blood films for malaria diagnosis

Andrew P. Norgan, Heather E. Arguello, Lynne M. Sloan, Emily C. Fernholz, Bobbi S. Pritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: The gold standard for malaria diagnosis is the examination of thick and thin blood films. Thick films contain 10 to 20 times more blood than thin films, correspondingly providing increased sensitivity for malaria screening. A potential complication of thick film preparations is sloughing of the blood droplet from the slide during staining or rinsing, resulting in the loss of sample. In this work, two methods for improving thick film slide adherence ('scratch' (SCM) and 'acetone dip' (ADM) methods) were compared to the 'standard method' (SM) of thick film preparation. Methods. Standardized blood droplets from 26 previously examined EDTA whole blood specimens (22 positive and four negative) were concurrently spread on glass slides using the SM, ADM, and SCM. For the SM and ADM prepared slides, the droplet was gently spread to an approximate 22 millimeters in diameter spot on the slide using the edge of a second glass slide. For the SCM, the droplet was spread by carefully grinding (or scratching) it into the slide with the point of a second glass slide. Slides were dried for one hour in a laminar flow hood. For the ADM, slides were dipped once in an acetone filled Coplin jar and allowed to air dry. All slides were then Giemsa-stained and examined in a blinded manner. Adherence was assessed by blinded reviewers. Results: No significant or severe defects were observed for slides prepared with the SCM. In contrast, 8 slides prepared by the ADM and 3 prepared using the SM displayed significant or severe defects. Thick films prepared by the three methods were microscopically indistinguishable and concordant results (positive or negative) were obtained for the three methods. Estimated parasitaemia of the blood samples ranged from 25 to 429,169 parasites/μL of blood. Conclusions: The SCM is an inexpensive, rapid, and simple method that improves the adherence of thick blood films to standard glass slides without altering general slide preparation, microscopic appearance or interpretability. Using the SCM, thick films can be reliably examined less than two hours after sample receipt. This represents a significant diagnostic improvement over protocols requiring extended drying periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number231
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Adherence
  • Malaria
  • Sloughing
  • Thick films

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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