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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Paracheck-Pf® accuracy and recently treated Plasmodium falciparum infections: is there a risk of over-diagnosis?

Todd D Swarthout1*, Helen Counihan1, Raphael Kabangwa K Senga3 and Ingrid van den Broek12

Author Affiliations

1 Médecins Sans Frontières, London, UK

2 Epicentre, Paris, France

3 AMI-KIVU Laboratories, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Malaria Journal 2007, 6:58  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-6-58

Published: 16 May 2007

Abstract

Background

An assessment of the accuracy of Paracheck Pf®, a malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) detecting histidine rich protein 2 was undertaken amongst children aged 6–59 months in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Methods

This RDT assessment occurred in conjunction with an ACT efficacy trial. Febrile children were simultaneously screened with both RDT and high quality microscopy and those meeting inclusion criteria were followed for 35 days.

Results

358 febrile children were screened with 180 children recruited for five weeks follow-up. On screening, the RDT accurately diagnosed all 235 true malaria cases, indicating 100% RDT sensitivity. Of the 123 negative slides, the RDT gave 59 false-positive results, indicating 52.0% (64/123) RDT specificity. During follow-up after treatment with an artemisinin-based combination therapy, 98.2% (110/112), 94.6% (106/112), 92.0% (103/112) and 73.5% (50/68) of effectively treated children were still false-positive by RDT at days 14, 21, 28 and 35, respectively.

Conclusion

Results show that though the use of Paracheck-Pf® is as sensitive as microscopy in detecting true malaria cases, a low specificity did present a high frequency of false-positive RDT results. What's more, a duration of RDT false-positivity was found that significantly surpassed the 'fortnight' after effective treatment reported by its manufacturer. Though further research is needed in assessing RDT accuracy, study results showing the presence of frequent false positivity should be taken into consideration to avoid clinicians inappropriately focusing on malaria, not identifying the true cause of illness, and providing unnecessary treatment.