Use of malaria rapid diagnostic tests by community health workers in Afghanistan: cluster randomised trial.

Leslie, T; Rowland, M; Mikhail, A; Cundill, B; Willey, B; Alokozai, A; Mayan, I; Hasanzai, A; Baktash, SH; Mohammed, N; Wood, M; Rahimi, HU; Laurent, B; Buhler, C; Whitty, CJM; (2017) Use of malaria rapid diagnostic tests by community health workers in Afghanistan: cluster randomised trial. BMC Med, 15 (1). p. 124. ISSN 1741-7015 DOI:

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends parasitological diagnosis of malaria before treatment, but use of malaria rapid diagnostic tests (mRDTs) by community health workers (CHWs) has not been fully tested within health services in south and central Asia. mRDTs could allow CHWs to diagnose malaria accurately, improving treatment of febrile illness. A cluster randomised trial in community health services was undertaken in Afghanistan. The primary outcome was the proportion of suspected malaria cases correctly treated for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-confirmed malaria and PCR negative cases receiving no antimalarial drugs measured at the level of the patient. CHWs from 22 clusters (clinics) received standard training on clinical diagnosis and treatment of malaria; 11 clusters randomised to the intervention arm received additional training and were provided with mRDTs. CHWs enrolled cases of suspected malaria, and the mRDT results and treatments were compared to blind-read PCR diagnosis. In total, 256 CHWs enrolled 2400 patients with 2154 (89.8%) evaluated. In the intervention arm, 75.3% (828/1099) were treated appropriately vs. 17.5% (185/1055) in the control arm (cluster adjusted risk ratio: 3.72, 95% confidence interval 2.40-5.77; p < 0.001). In the control arm, 85.9% (164/191) with confirmed Plasmodium vivax received chloroquine compared to 45.1% (70/155) in the intervention arm (p < 0.001). Overuse of chloroquine in the control arm resulted in 87.6% (813/928) of those with no malaria (PCR negative) being treated vs. 10.0% (95/947) in the intervention arm, p < 0.001. In the intervention arm, 71.4% (30/42) of patients with P. falciparum did not receive artemisinin-based combination therapy, partly because operational sensitivity of the RDTs was low (53.2%, 38.1-67.9). There was high concordance between recorded RDT result and CHW prescription decisions: 826/950 (87.0%) with a negative test were not prescribed an antimalarial. Co-trimoxazole was prescribed to 62.7% of malaria negative patients in the intervention arm and 15.0% in the control arm. While introducing mRDT reduced overuse of antimalarials, this action came with risks that need to be considered before use at scale: an appreciable proportion of malaria cases will be missed by those using current mRDTs. Higher sensitivity tests could be used to detect all cases. Overtreatment with antimalarial drugs in the control arm was replaced with increased antibiotic prescription in the intervention arm, resulting in a probable overuse of antibiotics., NCT01403350 . Prospectively registered.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Disease Control
Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Clinical Research
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Research Centre: Malaria Centre
PubMed ID: 28683750
Web of Science ID: 404858200001


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