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Safety of falciparum malaria diagnostic strategy based on rapid diagnostic tests in returning travellers and migrants: a retrospective study

Isabelle Anne Rossi1*, Valérie D’Acremont123, Guy Prod’Hom4 and Blaise Genton125

Author Affiliations

1 Travel Clinic, Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, CH-1011, Switzerland

2 Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, CH-4002, Switzerland

3 Global Malaria Programme, World Health Organization, Geneva, CH-1211, Switzerland

4 Institute of Microbiology, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, CH-1011, Switzerland

5 Infectious Disease Service, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital, Lausanne, CH-1011, Switzerland

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Malaria Journal 2012, 11:377  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-377

Published: 16 November 2012



Rapid diagnostic tests for malaria (RDTs) allow accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment. Validation of their usefulness in travellers with fever was needed. The safety of a strategy to diagnose falciparum malaria based on RDT followed by immediate or delayed microscopy reading at first attendance was evaluated in one referral hospital in Switzerland.


A retrospective study was conducted in the outpatient clinic and emergency ward of University Hospital, covering a period of eight years (1999–2007). The study was conducted in the outpatient clinic and emergency ward of University Hospital. All adults suspected of malaria with a diagnostic test performed were included. RDT and microscopy as immediate tests were performed during working hours, and RDT as immediate test and delayed microscopy reading out of laboratory working hours. The main outcome measure was occurrence of specific complications in RDT negative and RDT positive adults.


2,139 patients were recruited. 1987 had both initial RDT and blood smear (BS) result negative. Among those, 2/1987 (0.1%) developed uncomplicated malaria with both RDT and BS positive on day 1 and day 6 respectively. Among the 152 patients initially malaria positive, 137 had both RDT and BS positive, four only BS positive and five only RDT positive (PCR confirmed) (six had only one test performed). None of the four initially RDT negative/BS positive and none of the five initially BS negative/RDT positive developed severe malaria while 6/137 of both RDT and BS positive did so. The use of RDT allowed a reduction of a median of 2.1 hours to get a first malaria test result.


A malaria diagnostic strategy based on RDTs and a delayed BS is safe in non-immune populations, and shortens the time to first malaria test result.

Malaria; Rapid diagnostic tests; Diagnosis; Travellers; Migrants