Diagnosis is a crucial component of case management, ensuring appropriate treatment of patients and the effective use of resources.
Malaria Consortium works particularly at the point-of-care stage to ensure that patients are assessed accurately and provided with the appropriate diagnostic tools by trained health workers.
We help train health workers to improve their skills on differentiating between common diseases, often with very similar symptoms but requiring different treatment. For malaria case management we provide support for the two main routine diagnostic methods: microscopy and malaria rapid diagnostic tests (mRDTs). mRDTs are the most cost effective method in low-resource settings without a laboratory or medically trained staff. This makes them ideal for use at the community level.
We are also investigating other diagnostic methods, involving molecular biology such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) and non-invasive techniques, for their ability to detect low numbers of malaria parasites in field and routine settings, particularly in parts of Southeast Asia where elimination of the disease is a real possibility.
We also work closely with regulatory authorities in countries to establish mechanisms for quality assurance which ensure that all types of tests used are of the highest quality.
Rapid diagnosis tests
Prompt diagnosis of malaria is essential as just a few hours can mean the difference between life and death. Traditional diagnosis is via microscopy in a laboratory. However, many of the most severely malaria endemic areas lack the facilities to carry out high quality microscopy. In these areas diagnosis is often based solely on symptoms and given the prevalence of malaria, a child with a fever tends to be automatically treated (if treatment is available) for malaria.
Rapid diagnosis tests offer a quick, relatively cheap and on-the-spot diagnostic tool which require little training and can help reduce the number of unnecessary malaria treatments.