This article is part of the supplement: Eleventh International Conference on Bioinformatics (InCoB2012): Bioinformatics

Open Access Proceedings

An automatic device for detection and classification of malaria parasite species in thick blood film

Saowaluck Kaewkamnerd1, Chairat Uthaipibull2, Apichart Intarapanich1, Montri Pannarut1, Sastra Chaotheing2 and Sissades Tongsima2*

Author Affiliations

1 National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Thailand Science Park, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand

2 National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Thailand Science Park, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13(Suppl 17):S18  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S17-S18

Published: 13 December 2012



Current malaria diagnosis relies primarily on microscopic examination of Giemsa-stained thick and thin blood films. This method requires vigorously trained technicians to efficiently detect and classify the malaria parasite species such as Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) and Plasmodium vivax (Pv) for an appropriate drug administration. However, accurate classification of parasite species is difficult to achieve because of inherent technical limitations and human inconsistency. To improve performance of malaria parasite classification, many researchers have proposed automated malaria detection devices using digital image analysis. These image processing tools, however, focus on detection of parasites on thin blood films, which may not detect the existence of parasites due to the parasite scarcity on the thin blood film. The problem is aggravated with low parasitemia condition. Automated detection and classification of parasites on thick blood films, which contain more numbers of parasite per detection area, would address the previous limitation.


The prototype of an automatic malaria parasite identification system is equipped with mountable motorized units for controlling the movements of objective lens and microscope stage. This unit was tested for its precision to move objective lens (vertical movement, z-axis) and microscope stage (in x- and y-horizontal movements). The average precision of x-, y- and z-axes movements were 71.481 ± 7.266 μm, 40.009 ± 0.000 μm, and 7.540 ± 0.889 nm, respectively. Classification of parasites on 60 Giemsa-stained thick blood films (40 blood films containing infected red blood cells and 20 control blood films of normal red blood cells) was tested using the image analysis module. By comparing our results with the ones verified by trained malaria microscopists, the prototype detected parasite-positive and parasite-negative blood films at the rate of 95% and 68.5% accuracy, respectively. For classification performance, the thick blood films with Pv parasite was correctly classified with the success rate of 75% while the accuracy of Pf classification was 90%.


This work presents an automatic device for both detection and classification of malaria parasite species on thick blood film. The system is based on digital image analysis and featured with motorized stage units, designed to easily be mounted on most conventional light microscopes used in the endemic areas. The constructed motorized module could control the movements of objective lens and microscope stage at high precision for effective acquisition of quality images for analysis. The analysis program could accurately classify parasite species, into Pf or Pv, based on distribution of chromatin size.