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Microbial Diseases Laboratory

Test Name

Plasmodium species (Malaria) Real-Time PCR

Test Methodology

Multiplex Real-time PCR for detecting Plasmodium species

Reflex Testing Criteria


Pre-Approval Required


Supplemental Information and Required Form(s)

Form 416 (PDF) "Parasitology"

Instructions on completing this form

Required Specimen Type(s)

Preferred: EDTA whole blood (“purple top” tube) 

Also acceptable if EDTA whole blood is not available: 

  • Thick unfixed blood smears stored at room temperature
  • Thin unfixed blood smears stored at room temperature

Minimum Volume Required

0.5 mL EDTA whole blood

Specimen Stability

EDTA whole blood:
Room temp: Not recommended
Refrigerated (2-8⁰C): up to 4 months
Frozen (≤ -20 ⁰C): up to 1 year

Blood smears (submit only it EDTA blood tube is not available):
Room temp: up to 30 days
Refrigerated: transport OK; not necessary for long term storage
Frozen: Not recommended

Rejection Criteria

  • Specimens with insufficient or conflicting labelling
  • Leaking specimens
  • Specimens with insufficient quantities
  • Specimens that are too old or not stored/transported correctly.
  • Specimen/sample types not meeting acceptance criteria, including whole blood collected red-top/serum tubes or in preservatives or anti-coagulants other than EDTA

Storage/Transport Conditions

Store EDTA whole blood refrigerated (2-8⁰C) until transport. 

Transport with cold packs to keep at refrigerated temperature. Blood smears can be stored and shipped at room temperature.

Transport Medium, if applicable

Not applicable

Specimen Labeling

Two identifiers, including patient full name, and at least one other identifier (specimen accession number, date of birth, medical record number); date and time of collection as noted for specific tests, if applicable.

Shipping Instructions and Specimen Handling Requirements

Ship diagnostic specimen with cold packs (do not freeze). Ensure that EDTA blood tube (purple top) is additionally sealed with parafilm or tape for additional protection against leaking. If unfixed blood smears are sent, ensure that microscope slides are shipped in a slide mailer to prevent breakage.

Follow the appropriate DOT/IATA approved shipping procedures. Blood specimens for Plasmodium species testing should be shipped as a Biological Substance, Category B (UN3373).

Ship to:

California Department of Public Health
Microbial Diseases Laboratory
ATTN: Mycobacterial & Parasitic Diseases Ref. Unit
850 Marina Bay Parkway, Specimen Receiving Room B106
Richmond, CA 94804

Specimen Collection Instructions, if applicable

Collect EDTA whole blood sample prior to anti-parasitic therapy

Turnaround Time

2 business days

Interferences & Limitations

The Plasmodium species multiplex PCR assay does not directly detect P. knowlesi. If P. knowlesi is suspected and the PCR results are “not detected” for all 4 targets, then specimen will be forwarded to CDC for additional testing.

Reference Range

Not applicable

Additional Information

Plasmodium species multiplex PCR will be completed at MDL for speciation of P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae.  The specimen may be forwarded to CDC for other blood parasites per request.

MDL Point of Contact

For questions regarding submissions, please email or call the MMPDS Section at 510-412-3924.

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