Background: Autosplenectomy, as a result of sickle cell disease, is an important risk factor for severe malaria. While molecular methods are helpful in providing rapid and accurate infection detection and species identification, the effect of hyposplenism on result interpretation during the course of infection should be carefully considered. Case presentation: A 32-year old autosplenectomized Nigerian male with severe sickle cell disease was referred to the National Institutes of Health for allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Despite testing negative for malaria by both smear and PCR 2 weeks after arrival in the USA, the patient developed fever and diffuse bilateral lower rib cage and upper abdominal pain 2 weeks later and subsequently tested positive for Plasmodium falciparum. Parasitaemia was tracked over time by microscopy and nucleic acid tests to evaluate the therapeutic response in the setting of hyposplenism. The patient showed prompt resolution of patent infection by microscopy but remained positive by molecular methods for > 30 days after treatment initiation. Conclusion: While molecular testing can provide sensitive Plasmodium nucleic acid detection, the persistence of Plasmodium nucleic acids following adequate treatment in functionally asplenic patients can lead to a diagnostic dilemma. In such patients, clinical response and peripheral blood smears should guide patient management following treatment. Nonetheless, in pre-transplant patients at high-risk for pre-existing Plasmodium infections, highly sensitive molecular assays can be useful to rule out infection prior to transplantation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases
- 18S rRNA
- Nucleic acid amplification test
- Plasmodium falciparum
- Sickle cell disease