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Malaria Research

/Anopheles/ is a genus of mosquito involved in the zoonotic transfer of /Plasmodium/ parasite in human hosts.

Microscopy   |   Parasites in Full-View

Disclaimer: All opinions within this LibGuide are those of the student(s), not the Institution. We welcome faculty advisors to work with their students to create and curate resources to support their academic interests.

Microscopy and Staining

         Staining is not only useful for visualizing bacteria but also crucial for distinguishing different species of Plasmodium parasites in blood samples. Wefwafwa, a clinician in Uganda, shared a story that highlights the importance of accurate testing. He said that when people contract malaria, they often live on less than a dollar a day. Lab tests cost $5, and if a false negative occurs (the patient has malaria, but the test shows they don’t), they need to pay another $5 for retesting. If the test is positive, they have to spend another $5 on medication.

         For a Western audience, a $5 test may seem as trivial as a Venti Iced Vanilla Latte at Starbucks. However, for someone in Uganda, that amount could provide food for the next five days. Therefore, staining techniques are critically important and often coincide with symptoms like fever and chills, which occur when the Plasmodium parasite breaks free from red blood cells and enters the bloodstream. At this stage, Giemsa and Field’s staining methods are employed to identify specific morphological features and accurately determine the infecting Plasmodium species.

Giemsa staining
This method is considered the gold standard for malaria diagnosis, as it provides excellent morphological details of the parasites. The Giemsa stain is a mixture of methylene blue and eosin, which differentially stains cellular components. In the context of Plasmodium species, it stains the parasite’s cytoplasm blue and the chromatin (nucleus) purple or red.

Field’s staining
Field’s stain is a rapid staining method, often used in situations requiring a quick diagnosis. It uses two staining solutions, Field’s stain A (acidic) and Field’s stain B (alkaline).

Both Giemsa and Field’s staining techniques allow for the identification of Plasmodium species and the quantification of parasitemia. However, Giemsa staining typically provides superior morphological details, while Field’s staining is faster and more convenient for rapid diagnosis.


Funnily enough, Lewis has an entire cabinet put together by a former student named Maylee. She organized all the slides from the labs, and luckily made it easy to find and photograph all of our Plasmodium species slides. Additionally, Dr. Duncan, the lab coordinator set up the microscope and photographing program on our computers to make this all possible.

Plasmodium falciparum

Plasmodium vivax

Plasmodium malariae

Plasmodium ovale

Plasmodium chabaudi

Plasmodium gallinaceum

Plasmodium extra-erythrocytic

 Faculty contributor(s)

  • Dr. Duncan, who helped me locate the Plasmodium slides and also set up the microscope with imaging.
  • Dr. Miller, who happened to mention we had Plasmodium slides in Lewis.

 Additional contributor

  • Maylee, who organized and put together all the slides in Lewis's lab one summer before I attended.
  • Rex, who spent an afternoon learning to use a microscope, playing with software and hardware settings to get good photographs, and finding interesting parts of each slide to photograph.