Placental impression smears is a good indicator of placental malaria in sub-Saharan Africa

Pan Afr Med J. 2019 Sep 16;34:30. doi: 10.11604/pamj.2019.34.30.20013. eCollection 2019.


Placental malaria (PM) is an important predictor of infant morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. Although placental histology is the gold standard test to diagnose PM, the placenta impression smears remains widely used in epidemiological studies. This study is set to evaluate the performance of placental impression smears to detect PM in pregnant women in southern Benin.


A cross-sectional analysis was performed on data collected in the framework a multicenter randomized clinical trial (Malaria in Pregnancy Preventive and Alternative Drugs). Samples from 491 pregnant women were examined in the district of Allada, Southern Benin. Plasmodium falciparum infections have been assessed in placental blood and placental biopsy.


Placental malaria detected by placenta impression smears and histology were prevalent in 11.4% and 10.8%, respectively. Sensitivity and specificity of placental impression smears were 90.6% and 98.4%. Among 55 pregnant women tested positive by placenta impression smears, 48 were positive by the histology, while 7 were negative (positive predictive value: 87.3%). Four hundred and twenty four (424) of the 429 tested negative by the placenta impression smears, were also negative according to histology whereas the rest (5 of 429) of the women were positive (negative predictive value: 98.8%).


Placenta impression smear is an accurate and easy method for the diagnosis of placental malaria.