Improving the Specificity of Plasmodium falciparum Malaria Diagnosis in High-Transmission Settings with a Two-Step Rapid Diagnostic Test and Microscopy Algorithm
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JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
AbstractPoor specificity may negatively impact rapid diagnostic test (RDT)-based diagnostic strategies for malaria. We performed real-time PCR on a subset of subjects who had undergone diagnostic testing with a multiple-antigen (histidine-rich protein 2 and pan-lactate dehydrogenase pLDH [HRP2/pLDH]) RDT and microscopy. We determined the sensitivity and specificity of the RDT in comparison to results of PCR for the detection of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. We developed and evaluated a two-step algorithm utilizing the multiple-antigen RDT to screen patients, followed by confirmatory microscopy for those individuals with HRP2-positive (HRP2+)/pLDH-negative (pLDH-) results. In total, dried blood spots (DBS) were collected from 276 individuals. There were 124 (44.9%) individuals with an HRP2+/pLDH+ result, 94 (34.1%) with an HRP2+/pLDH- result, and 58 (21%) with a negative RDT result. The sensitivity and specificity of the RDT compared to results with real-time PCR were 99.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 95.9 to 100.0%) and 46.7% (95% CI, 37.7 to 55.9%), respectively. Of the 94 HRP2+/pLDH- results, only 32 (34.0%) and 35 (37.2%) were positive by microscopy and PCR, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of the two-step algorithm compared to results with real-time PCR were 95.5% (95% CI, 90.5 to 98.0%) and 91.0% (95% CI, 84.1 to 95.2), respectively. HRP2 antigen bands demonstrated poor specificity for the diagnosis of malaria compared to that of real-time PCR in a high-transmission setting. The most likely explanation for this finding is the persistence of HRP2 antigenemia following treatment of an acute infection. The two-step diagnostic algorithm utilizing microscopy as a confirmatory test for indeterminate HRP2+/pLDH- results showed significantly improved specificity with little loss of sensitivity in a high-transmission setting.
PublisherAmerican Society for Microbiology