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Why use rapid diagnostic tests for malaria?

Malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) assist in the diagnosis of malaria by providing evidence of the presence of malaria parasites in human blood. RDTs are an alternative to diagnosis based on clinical grounds or microscopy, particularly where good quality microscopy services cannot be readily provided.

Variations occur between products, such as targets and formats, though the principles of the tests are similar. Malaria RDTs detect specific antigens (proteins) produced by malaria parasites in the blood of infected individuals. Some RDTs can detect only one species (Plasmodium falciparum or P. vivax) while others detect multiple species (P. falciparumP. vivaxP. malariae and P. ovale). Blood for the test is commonly obtained from a finger-prick.

(WHO Global Malaria Programme)

What is PCD?

Passive case detection (PCD) is perhaps the most critical element for malaria surveillance in all transmission settings, and it is particularly relevant in elimination settings to prevent re-establishing transmission in disease-free areas. PCD encompasses the detection of malaria cases in people who seek care, usually with symptoms, from health providers or community health workers.

(WHO. Global Malaria Programme. Disease surveillance for malaria elimination: an operational manual. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2012.)

What causes malaria?

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. Four Plasmodium species (Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae) give disease in humans, and humans are their only relevant reservoir.

Transmission requires an intermediate mosquito (anopheles) host, which is found worldwide. Following exposure (an infected mosquito bite) the incubation period varies between one and four weeks in most cases. Depending on the plasmodium species involved, much longer incubation periods are possible.

The clinical presentation of malaria depends very much on the pattern and intensity of malaria transmission in the area of residence, which determines the degree of protective immunity acquired and, in turn, the clinical disease profile.

(European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control)

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