5 key facts about malaria testing
Research Malaria testing is an imperative to aid the global fight in malaria eradication.
- WHO recommends confirmatory testing of all suspected malaria cases before treating with antimalarials – important because with the success of malaria prevention and treatment interventions, malaria incidence is declining in many countries…but people are still being treated for malaria when they actually have other diseases with similar symptoms, including pneumonia (cause of 18% of deaths in young children in the developing world), typhoid fever (216,000 deaths per year) and dengue (20,000 deaths per year).
- The availability of high-quality rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) has greatly improved. In 2013, for the first time ever, the total number of malaria RDTs exceeded the number of effective antimalarial therapies distributed in sub-Saharan Africa - a good sign because not all fever is malaria, so we expect a larger proportion of people to be tested than treated for malaria.
- While access to appropriate malaria diagnosis and treatment continues to increase thanks to global efforts, it is still estimated that only 62% of patients with suspected malaria received a diagnostic test for malaria in 2013.
- The WHO-FIND quality assurance programme is working! Among malaria rapid diagnostic tests submitted to lot testing, 98.6% met WHO procurement and quality standards in 2013 compared to only 71.2% in 2007. Most of these tests were destined for the public sector, so now more work is needed to improve access to high-quality tests in the private health care sector.
- A substantial proportion of people with fever in malaria-endemic countries still seek care in the private sector, where malaria tests are often unavailable or of substandard quality. Mechanisms are needed to increase access to high-quality malaria diagnosis in both the public and private health care sectors.