Measures of parasitemia by intraerythrocytic hematozoan parasites are normally expressed as the number of infected erythrocytes per n erythrocytes and are notoriously tedious and time consuming to measure. We describe a protocol for generating rapid counts of nucleated erythrocytes from digital micrographs of thin blood smears that can be used to estimate intensity of hematozoan infections in nonmammalian vertebrate hosts. This method takes advantage of the bold contrast and relatively uniform size and morphology of erythrocyte nuclei on Giemsa-stained blood smears and uses ImageJ, a java-based image analysis program developed at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and available on the internet, to recognize and count these nuclei. This technique makes feasible rapid and accurate counts of total erythrocytes in large numbers of microscope fields, which can be used in the calculation of peripheral parasitemias in low-intensity infections.
Additional publication details
A rapid method for counting nucleated erythrocytes on stained blood smears by digital image analysis