Introduction: In Saudi Arabia, where malaria is not endemic, the incidence is very low. However, malaria transmission cases have been reported, mainly in Asir and Jazan provinces along the Southwestern border with Yemen. Imported cases also have been reported. The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of malaria in blood donors in a tertiary care hospital in the central area of Saudi Arabia and to assess the effectiveness of malaria screening methods used by transfusion services in Prince Sultan Military Medical City.

Methods: This study was conducted on 180,000 people who donated blood during 2006-2015. All blood smears from blood donors were screened for malaria infection using Giemsa staining, low power and high power microscopic examinations, and using oil immersion lens. The data were analyzed and reported in descriptive statistics and prevalence.

Results: From the total of 180,000 blood donors who were screened for malaria, 156,000 (87%) and 23.400 (13%) were Saudi Arabia citizens and non-Saudi residents, respectively. The mean age of the blood donors was 32 (ranging from 18 to 65), 97% and 3% were male and female, respectively. Using our current method for malaria screening, the prevalence of malaria in the study population was zero. 

Conclusion: The current methods of malaria screening in blood donors is not suitable for screening low-level parasiotemia. Adding the immunoassay and molecular screening methods is suggested.


Keywords: malaria, blood donors, peripheral blood smear, antibody testing
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