August 14, 2019

Used malaria test kits help trace drug resistance malaria too

SciDev.Net reports on a study that shows malaria rapid test kits could be used to assess resistance to antimalarials.

The WHO recommends that countries evaluate the effectiveness of medicines for treating malaria — called artemisinin combination therapy — every two to three years but logistical issues threaten the achievement of this goal in Sub-Saharan Africa, forcing experts to consider other strategies to complement such effectiveness studies.

“We wanted to explore the possibility of systematically collecting rapid diagnostic tests after diagnosis and then using them for routine screening for mutations [changes in the structure of genes] in the parasites that cause resistance to antimalarials,” says Sidsel Nag, lead author of the study and a biologist at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

According to the study published in the Malaria Journal in July 2019, researchers sampled 2,184 rapid diagnostic tests that had tested positive for malaria between May 2014 and April 2017 in a health centre in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. The 1,390 kits that were found to be positive for the genetic make-up of malaria-causing parasites were further analysed for evidence that could predict the presence of antimalarial resistance. 

Simon Kariuki, head of the malaria programme at the Kenya Medical Research Institute’s Centre for Global Health Research, says instead of collecting blood samples from people during surveys, which can be expensive, this study shows that you can use rapid diagnostic tests.