Malaria diagnostic tests differ in performance

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The largest-ever independent, laboratory-based evaluation of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria has shown that some tests on the market perform exceptionally well in tropical temperatures and can detect even low parasite densities in blood samples, while other tests can detect parasites only at high densities.

The evaluation was co-sponsored by the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific (WPRO), WHO-based Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND).

Testing was performed at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Forty one commercially available RDTs went through a blinded laboratory evaluation.

The findings will serve as a tool for countries to make informed choices, from among the dozens of tests commercially available, on the purchase and use of rapid diagnostics that are best suited to local conditions.

This performance evaluation will also inform procurement and prioritization for diagnostic test entry into WHO Prequalification Diagnostics Programme and WHO Procurement Schemes. Donor agencies also regularly refer to WHO recommendations on diagnostics when making their own purchases.

“This is an important first step in establishing a broader system of diagnostics surveillance and quality assurance to ensure sound and accurate diagnosis of malaria in poor and remote settings,” said Dr Robert Ridley, Director of TDR.

In addition to product testing WHO, TDR and FIND have also collaborated to establish procedures and quality assured facilities for routine lot testing of rapid diagnostics in Asia and Africa.

Source: World Health Organization, Switzerland

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