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Quality assurance of rapid diagnostic tests for malaria in routine patient care in rural Tanzania.

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  • Diagnosis & Treatment
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Medicine


Histidine-rich protein II (HRP2)-based malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) have shown high sensitivity and specificity for detecting Plasmodium falciparum malaria in a variety of study settings. However, RDTs are susceptible to heat and humidity and variation in individual performance, which may affect their use in field settings. We evaluated sensitivity and specificity of RDTs during routine use for malaria case management in peripheral health facilities. From December 2007 to October 2008, HRP2-based ParaHIT-f RDTs were introduced in 12 facilities without available microscopy in Rufiji District, Tanzania. Health workers received a single day of instruction on how to perform an RDT and thick blood smear. Job aids, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness guidelines, and national malaria treatment algorithms were reviewed. For quality assurance (QA), thick blood smears for reference microscopy were collected for 2 to 3 days per week from patients receiving RDTs; microscopy was not routinely performed at the health facilities. Slides were stained and read centrally within 72 hours of collection by a reference microscopist. When RDT and blood smear results were discordant, blood smears were read by additional reference microscopists blinded to earlier results. Facilities were supervised monthly by the district laboratory supervisor or a member of the study team. Ten thousand six hundred fifty (10,650) patients were tested with RDTs, and 51.5% (5,488/10,650) had a positive test result. Blood smear results were available for 3,914 patients, of whom 40.1% (1,577/3,914) were positive for P. falciparum malaria. Overall RDT sensitivity was 90.7% (range by facility 85.7-96.5%) and specificity was 73.5% (range 50.0-84.3%). Sensitivity increased with increasing parasite density. Successful implementation of RDTs was achieved in peripheral health facilities with adequate training and supervision. Quality assurance is essential to the adequate performance of any laboratory test. Centralized staining and reading of blood smears provided useful monitoring of RDT performance. However, this level of QA may not be sustainable nationwide.

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