Open Access Research

Investigating portable fluorescent microscopy (CyScope®) as an alternative rapid diagnostic test for malaria in children and women of child-bearing age

José Carlos Sousa-Figueiredo12*, David Oguttu3, Moses Adriko3, Fred Besigye3, Andrina Nankasi3, Moses Arinaitwe3, Annet Namukuta3, Martha Betson1, Narcis B Kabatereine3 and J Russell Stothard1

Author Affiliations

1 WHO Collaborating Centre Schistosomiasis, Wolfson Wellcome Biomedical Laboratories, Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum, London, SW7 5BD, UK

2 Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

3 Vector Control Division, Ministry of Health, P.O. Box 1661, Kampala, Uganda

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Malaria Journal 2010, 9:245  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-9-245

Published: 27 August 2010

Abstract

Background

Prompt and correct diagnosis of malaria is crucial for accurate epidemiological assessment and better case management, and while the gold standard of light microscopy is often available, it requires both expertise and time. Portable fluorescent microscopy using the CyScope® offers a potentially quicker, easier and more field-applicable alternative. This article reports on the strengths, limitations of this methodology and its diagnostic performance in cross-sectional surveys on young children and women of child-bearing age.

Methods

552 adults (99% women of child-bearing age) and 980 children (99% ≤ 5 years of age) from rural and peri-urban regions of Ugandan were examined for malaria using light microscopy (Giemsa-stain), a lateral-flow test (Paracheck-Pf®) and the CyScope®. Results from the surveys were used to calculate diagnostic performance (sensitivity and specificity) as well as to perform a receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analyses, using light microscopy as the gold-standard.

Results

Fluorescent microscopy (qualitative reads) showed reduced specificity (<40%), resulting in higher community prevalence levels than those reported by light microscopy, particularly in adults (+180% in adults and +20% in children). Diagnostic sensitivity was 92.1% in adults and 86.7% in children, with an area under the ROC curve of 0.63. Importantly, optimum performance was achieved for higher parasitaemia (>400 parasites/μL blood): sensitivity of 64.2% and specificity of 86.0%. Overall, the diagnostic performance of the CyScope was found inferior to that of Paracheck-Pf®.

Discussion

Fluorescent microscopy using the CyScope® is certainly a field-applicable and relatively affordable solution for malaria diagnoses especially in areas where electrical supplies may be lacking. While it is unlikely to miss higher parasitaemia, its application in cross-sectional community-based studies leads to many false positives (i.e. small fluorescent bodies of presently unknown origin mistaken as malaria parasites). Without recourse to other technologies, arbitration of these false positives is presently equivocal, which could ultimately lead to over-treatment; something that should be further explored in future investigations if the CyScope® is to be more widely implemented.