New evaluation of rapid tests helps malaria control
GENEVA, 23 April, 2010.- A new evaluation of malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) will help countries quickly identify which patients have the disease and need immediate treatment, putting into action recent World Health Organization recommendations to confirm diagnosis of malaria before treatment.
Malaria kills 860 000 people a year worldwide, mostly children in Africa. In addition, there are cases in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Europe. World Malaria Day is April 25.
The Malaria RDT Product Testing Evaluation Programme just completed a new assessment of the performance of 29 rapid diagnostic tests and found that 15 of them met minimum performance criteria set by WHO. "These rapid tests have been a major breakthrough in malaria control," said Dr Robert Newman, Director of WHO's Global Malaria Programme. "They allow us to test people who cannot access diagnosis based on microscopy in remote, rural areas where the majority of malaria occurs."
In 2008, just 22% of suspected malaria cases were tested in 18 of 35 African countries reporting. Universal diagnosis would enable health workers to identify which patients with fever have malaria and need life-saving anti-malarial drugs, and which have other causes of illness and require alternative treatment. This would improve overall childhood survival, one of the UN health Millennium Development Goals.
Recent WHO malaria treatment guidelines call for diagnosis using either microscopy or the rapid tests before treatment in all cases of suspected malaria.
The Malaria RDT Product Testing Programme has now conducted a total of 70 test evaluations, finding that 37 of them meet minimum performance criteria. This gives malaria-endemic countries and donors a wider choice of tests which have been assessed for quality and reliability and helps facilitate the purchase of good quality drugs and diagnostics by developing countries with products procured by WHO, UNICEF and the major international funding agencies
The evaluation programme is co-sponsored by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP) and the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.Testing is performed at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The director of TDR, Dr Robert Ridley, noted the major collaborative effort by multiple agencies and institutions that have enabled these evaluations to take place. “With scientists from 12 malaria-endemic country research institutions and several agencies and research centres in developed countries working together, it has been possible to achieve results of global benefit to malaria control”, he said.
“The data provided from these evaluations are having a major impact on procurement decisions of countries and donor agencies,” said Dr Giorgio Roscigno, CEO of FIND.
Some tests outperformed others in terms of identifying malaria with low parasite density, as it is found in, for example, newborns, people sleeping under nets and populations living in regions where malaria transmission is low. There are a clear set of criteria related to local conditions that need to be considered in deciding the best diagnostic test for a particular country.
For more details contact:
Dr Jane Cunningham
Technical Officer, TDR
Mobile: +41 79 517 8048
Dr David Bell
Medical Officer, WHO's Global Programme on Malaria
Mobile: +41 79 269 1638
The Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) is a global program of scientific collaboration established in 1975, sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Development Programme, World Bank and World Health Organization, and executed by WHO.
FIND is a non-profit Swiss organization established in 2003, with offices in Uganda and India. Its mission is to develop, evaluate, demonstrate, and accelerate the roll out of new diagnostic tests and platforms for diseases of poverty, including TB, malaria, and human African trypanosomiasis.
About the WHO Global Malaria Programme:
The WHO Global Malaria Programme (GMP), is responsible for malaria surveillance, monitoring and evaluation, policy and strategy formulation, technical assistance, and coordination of WHO's global efforts to fight malaria.