BACKGROUND: Unbiased flow cytometry-based methods have become the technique of choice in many laboratories for high-throughput, accurate assessments of malaria parasites in bioassays. A method to quantify live parasites based on mitotracker red CMXRos was recently described but consistent distinction of early ring stages of Plasmodium falciparum from uninfected red blood cells (uRBC) remains a challenge. METHODS: Here, a high-throughput, three-parameter (tri-colour) flow cytometry technique based on mitotracker red dye, the nucleic acid dye coriphosphine O (CPO) and the leucocyte marker CD45 for enumerating live parasites in bioassays was developed. The technique was applied to estimate the specific growth inhibition index (SGI) in the antibody-dependent cellular inhibition (ADCI) assay and compared to parasite quantification by microscopy and mitotracker red staining. The Bland-Altman analysis was used to compare biases between SGI estimated by the tri-colour staining technique, mitotracker red and by microscopy. RESULTS: CPO allowed a better separation between early rings and uRBCs compared to mitotracker red resulting in a more accurate estimate of total parasitaemia. The tri-colour technique is rapid, cost effective and robust with comparable sensitivity to microscopy and capable of discriminating between live and dead and/or compromised parasites. Staining for CD45 improved parasitaemia estimates in ADCI assay since high numbers of leucocytes interfered with the accurate identification of parasitized RBC. The least bias (-1.60) in SGI was observed between the tri-colour and microscopy. CONCLUSION: An improved methodology for high-throughput assessment of P. falciparum parasitaemia under culture conditions that could be useful in different bioassays, including ADCI and growth inhibition assays has been developed.