Quality assurance of malaria rapid diagnostic tests used for routine patient care in rural Tanzania: microscopy versus real-time polymerase chain reaction
Published Date:Feb 19 2015
Source:Malar J. 14.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends parasitologic confirmation of suspected malaria cases before treatment. Due to the limited availability of quality microscopy services, this recommendation has become scalable following increased use of antigen-detecting malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) in many malaria-endemic countries. This study was carried out to monitor quality of RDT performance in selected health facilities using two quality assurance (QA) methods: reference microscopy and detection of parasite DNA by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) on dried blood spots (DBS).
Blood samples for QA were collected from patients undergoing RDT for diagnostic confirmation of malaria during two to three consecutive days per month in 12 health facilities in rural Tanzania. Stained blood smears (BS) were first examined at the district hospitals (BS1) and then at a reference laboratory (BS2). Discordant BS1 and BS2 results prompted a third examination. Molecular analysis was carried out at the Ifakara Health Institute laboratory in Bagamoyo.
Malaria RDTs had a higher positivity rate (6.5%) than qPCR (4.2%) or microscopy (2.9% for BS1 and 2.5% for BS2). Poor correlation was observed between RDT and BS results: BS1 (K = 0.5), BS2 (K = 0.43) and qPCR (K = 0.45), challenging the utility of these tests for RDT QA. In addition, many challenges related to qPCR processing were recorded and long delays in obtaining QA test results for both microscopy and qPCR.
Overall there was limited agreement among the three diagnostic approaches and neither microscopy nor qPCR appear to be good QA options for RDTs under field conditions.
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