Category Archives: Diagnosis

Community health workers provide integrated community case management using malaria rapid diagnostic test kits

Please find below the abstract of the above named article that is first appearing as an accepted paper in the journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. The authors – Bright C. Orji, Namratha Rao, Elizabeth Thompson, William R. Brieger, Emmanuel
‘Dipo Otolorin – conducted this work as part of Jhpiego’s commitment to fighting malaria in Nigeria.

ABSTRACT

Background: Throughout Nigeria malaria is an endemic disease. Efforts to treat malaria can also be combined with other illnesses including pneumonia and diarrhea, which are killing children under five years of age. The use of Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) aids early  diagnosis of malaria and informs when other illnesses should be considered. Those with positive RDT results should be treated with Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACTs), while those with negative RDTs results are further investigated for pneumonia and diarrhea.

Community Directed Distributor performs malaria rapid diagnostic test of febrile child

Community Directed Distributor performs malaria rapid diagnostic test of febrile child

Critical health systems challenges such as human resource constraints mean that community case management (CCM) and community health workers such as volunteers called Community Directed Distributors (CDDs) can therefore play an important role in diagnosing and treating malaria. This report described an effort to monitor and document the performance of trained CDDs in providing quality management of febrile illnesses including the use of RDTs.

Method: The program trained one hundred and fifty-two (152) CDDs on the use of RDTs to test for malaria and give ACTs for positive RDTs results, cotrimoxazole for the treatment of pneumonia and Oral rehydration solution and zinc for diarrhea They were also taught to counsel on compliance medicine, identify adverse reactions, and keep accurate records. The CDDs worked for 12 Calendar months. Their registers were retrieved and audited using a checklist to document client complaints, tests done, test results and treatment provided. No client identifying information was collected.

Results: There were 32 (21%) male CDDs and 120 (79%) females. The overall mean age of the CDDs was 36.8 (±8.7) years old. 89% of the male CDDs provided correct treatment based on RDT results compared to 97.6% of the female CDDs, a statistically significant difference. Likewise CDDs younger than 36 years of age provided 92.7% correct case management compared to those 36 years and older (98.4%). The difference between the age groups was also significant. There was a strong association between CDDs dispensing ACTs with positive RDT results. In RDT negative cases, the most common course of action was dispensing antibiotics (43.2%), followed by referring the patients (30.34%) and the providing ORS (24.1%).

Conclusion: Volunteer CDDs who are community members can adhere to treatment protocols and guidelines and comply with performance standards. The next step is scaling this approach to a state-wide level.

Accepted Date: 26 September 2016. Please cite this article as: Orji BC, Rao N, Thompson E, Brieger WR, ‘Dipo Otolorin E, Community health workers provide integrated community case management using malaria rapid diagnostic test kits, Research in Social & Administrative Pharmacy (2016), doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2016.09.006.

Disrupting Malaria: How Fyodor Biotechnologies is changing the diagnostics game

Efosa Ojomo, Senior Researcher, Harvard Business School, Forum for Growth and Innovation looks at the new innovation award recipient, the designers of the Urine Malaria Test, and explains how the technology disrupts the system that has made it difficult to reach the average malaria sufferer with appropriate diagnostics and treatment.

In 2015, 214 million people were infected with malaria, 190 million of whom were in African countries. Of those infected, 438,000 died, 91% of who were in Africa. In addition, malaria has significant financial implications on families, companies and countries. Experts estimate that in countries burdened with malaria, the disease is responsible for as much as 40% of public health expenditures, 30 to 50% of in-patient hospital visits, and 50% of out-patient visits.

From a financial standpoint, direct costs of managing the disease is up to $12 billion annually, while the cost in lost economic growth is many times more. Considering the scale of malaria’s impact on Africa, there have been many innovations that have helped curb the spread of the disease, but perhaps one of the most significant is Fyodor Biotechnology’s disruptive Urine Malaria Test (UMT).

UMT-DiagThe UMT, a Significant Malaria Milestone

Fyodor’s UMT is a simple urine test where patients simply pee on a stick in order to find out whether they have malaria. The World Health Organization states that “Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. Access to diagnostic testing and treatment should be seen… as a fundamental right of all populations at risk.” In other words, if we diagnose early, we will save many more lives and limit transmission.

fyodortableUMT is an inexpensive (introductory price: ~$2 per test to end user) malaria diagnostic test that does not require the expertise of a trained professional. The UMT kit also does not require a lab or special disposal due to its simplicity. It is a three step process that lets patients know, in 20 minutes, if they have malaria.

Why the UMT is Disruptive

The most important hallmark of a disruptive innovation is that it makes complicated and expensive products simple and affordable, enabling many more people in society to benefit from the innovation. The UMT fits this model as the differences between the UMT and existing blood-testing kit below clearly illustrate.

One of the most exciting things about the UMT is Dr. Agbo’s goal to manufacture the product in Africa. “With an investment of $5 million, we can build a fully equipped manufacturing plant in Nigeria. That amount will only get us a building in the United States,” he explained.

Innovation Prize of Africa winners IPA2016winners-1200x590 at Forbes2It is solutions like these that African investors and policy makers need to support in order to get Africa on a path to sustainable economic development. As reported by Forbes, the UMT is an innovative product by Africans for Africans. This is why the UMT is an innovation winner.

(A longer version of this posting appeared on the World Bank Africa Can blog.)

We cannot end malaria for good without addressing flaviviruses

“End malaria for good”, the theme for the 2016 World Malaria Day, presents us with a double challenge.  We want to end malaria finally, or eliminate it between 2030 and 2040, but also, ending it will be good for saving lives and improving economies of endemic countries. The challenge arises when we consider whether we will have adequate resources to accomplish the task. As colleagues from the University of California in San Francisco observed, “Sustaining domestic and international funding as malaria burden decreases is a serious concern for most of the eliminating countries.”

One way to guarantee resources is through conserving what we have and only treating people for malaria when they actually have the disease and not some other febrile illness. The advent of malaria rapid diagnostic tests (mRDTs) that can be used at the primary care level, including within the community should have improved our ability to differentiate malaria from other causes of fever.  Unfortunately mRDTs do not always guide correct case management.  When a febrile patient tests negative, we may not have the ability to do further differential diagnosis. Some causes of fever do not have a direct cure. Therefore if malaria drugs are available through programs like the Global Fund, we are tempted to use them since many front line clinicians feel that, “We must do something for the patient.”

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Flaviviruses pose one challenge. Such choices not only waste scarce resources but may be harmful. A prime example is the recent outbreak of Yellow Fever in Angola. According to the World Health Organization, “The first, ‘acute’, phase usually causes fever, muscle pain with prominent backache, headache, shivers, loss of appetite, and nausea or vomiting,” making it easily confused with malaria. Treating most of these patients with malaria drugs may not cause harm, but 15% go on to develop severe disease including hemorrhaging and death. Proper use of mRDTs, follow-up observation of RDT-negative patients and provision of supportive care that treats dehydration, respiratory failure, and fever, can save lives.

Rapid diagnostic test kits are widely used in India for the diagnosis of dengue infection,  but do not feature in African clinics. Without Dengue RDTs, clinicians in Africa may assume that Dengue is a severe form of malaria and treat as malaria even without parasitological laboratory evidence. With suspected Dengue patients increased intake of oral fluids is recommended by WHO along with paracetamol (not aspirin) for fever and pains.

So far the global Zika Virus outbreak has spared Africa of its worst neurological and brain damaging effects. For the current epidemic the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inform that, “The most common symptoms of Zika also resemble malaria and are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.”  for which CDC recommends palliative case management.

Like other flaviviruses Chikungunya “causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash,” according to WHO. WHO explains that, “Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years.

It will be good to end malaria for good, but we must also have the means to detect and manage the other dangerous, life threatening febrile diseases that will be left behind. In the meantime we need to conduct proper differential diagnosis starting with mRDTs so that expensive malaria medicines will be used judiciously and correctly and other febrile illnesses will receive appropriate life-saving care.

Lassa Fever in Nigeria

Fever brings to mind ‘malaria’ for most health workers often resulting in dangerous nmis-diagnoses. Not all fevers are alike, and when health workers do not practice infection procedures in examining a febrile patient, they put themselves, their families and all people at their clinic at risk.

lassa-distribution-map smWitness the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where health workers disproportionately died. And just as happened with Ebola, the Guardian reported that, “A medical doctor in Rivers State has been confirmed dead after being diagnosed of See WHO’s Lassa fever fact sheetin the state’s apex hospital, the Brewaithe Memorial Specialist Hospital (BMH), Port Harcourt.”

As of 9th January the death toll rose to 35 with 81 cases. The Guardian Newspaper noted that “Non-Specific Symptoms Of Ailment Threaten Interruption Efforts, ” and that at the rate the current Lassa Fever outbreak is ravaging in the country, the federal government may soon have no option but to declare an emergency to hasten containment.”

By January 16th the number of deaths had risen to 44 as reported by MENAFN.com. They also explained that Lassa is “transmitted through the faeces, urine and blood of rats (and subsequently) human bodily fluids,” of those infected via rats. Rats closely inhabit spaces with humans, while fruit bats that carry Ebola are more confined to forests (which unfortunately have been pushed back through human activity).

Lassa is endemic in Nigeria and West Africa across to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea where some suspected the initial Ebola cases might have been Lassa. The first cases were CDC: documented in Nigeria in 1969, and as the AllAfrica.Com, Guardian: Ministry of Health noted, “Lassa fever which has over the years registered its presence in the country, supposed not to have taken us by surprise.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/CDC provides the following useful information showing that while infectious, Lassa may not be as dangerous as Ebola:

  • “Signs and symptoms of Lassa fever typically occur 1-3 weeks after the patient comes into contact with the virus. For the majority of Lassa fever virus infections (approximately 80%), symptoms are mild and are undiagnosed. Mild symptoms include slight fever, general malaise and weakness, and headache. In 20% of infected individuals, however, disease may progress to more serious symptoms including hemorrhaging (in gums, eyes, or nose, as examples), respiratory distress, repeated vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen, and shock. Neurological problems have also been described, including hearing loss, tremors, and encephalitis. Death may occur within two weeks after symptom onset due to multi-organ failure.”

7 pricks finger for blood collection 2Finally CDC cautions health workers to protect themselves and not assume every fever is malaria. “When caring for patients with Lassa fever, further transmission of the disease through person-to-person contact or nosocomial routes can be avoided by taking preventive precautions against contact with patient secretions (called VHF isolation precautions or barrier nursing methods). Such precautions include wearing protective clothing, such as masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles; using infection control measures, such as complete equipment sterilization; and isolating infected patients from contact with unprotected persons until the disease has run its course.”

While health workers at the front line are encouraged to use malaria Rapid Diagnostic Tests to determine or exclude a diagnosis of malaria, they must remember that RDTs involve blood. Protective materials are always required, even for ‘simple’ malaria. Health systems – public and private – need to ensure health workers have these life saving materials.

Pneumonia and Malaria – similar challenges and pathways to success

ConcentrationOfPneumoniaDeathsWorld Pneumonia Day (WPD) helps us focus on the major killers of children globally. While Pneumonia is responsible for more child mortality across the world, in tropical malaria endemic areas both create nearly equal damage (see WPD graphic showing Nigeria and DRC which are both have the highest burden for pneumonia, but also malaria). Of particular concern is case management at the clinic and community level where there is great need to differentiate between these two forms of febrile illness so that the right care is given and lives are saved.

WPD_2014_logo_portraitDiagnostics are a particular challenge. While we now have malaria rapid diagnostic test kits that can be used at the community level, we must rely on breath counting for malaria. The Pneumonia Diagnostics Project (see video) “is working to identify the most accurate and acceptable devices for use by frontline health workers in remote settings in Cambodia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda.”

Ease of use at low cost must be achieved. One approach to solve the pneumonia diagnostics challenge at community and front line clinic level is to find “mobile phone applications or alternative energy for pulse oximetry,” to test low oxygen levels.

PneumoniaCareVaccine development for both diseases is underway. The challenge for malaria results from the different stages of the parasites life-cycle. Lack of affordable vaccines for pneumonia limits at present widespread preventive action, though public-private partnerships offer hope.

Dispersable and correct dose for age prepackaged malaria drugs are already available. Now more child-friendly medicines for pneumonia are being developed. In low resource settings, “amoxicillin dispersible tablets are a better option, particularly for children who can’t swallow pills. They have a longer shelf-life, are cost-effective, don’t need refrigeration, and are easy to administer.”

Similarities in the problems and solutions to control these two diseases require that interventions must continue to be developed and implemented jointly in order to benefit children the most. As can be seen again from the WPD graphics (right), many children do not get needed treatment. Integrated case management at all levels is the answer.

Evaluation of Community Malaria Worker Performance in Western Cambodia: a Quantitative and Qualitative Assessment

Sara E. Canavati de la Torre and colleagues[1] conducted a study of Community health workers who focus on malaria. They are sharing their results with us below.

Village/ Mobile Malaria Workers (VMWs/MMWs) are a critical component in Cambodia’s national strategy to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality. Since Sara map image0162004, VMWs have been providing free malaria diagnosis and treatment using Rapid Diagnostic Tests and Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies in hard-to-reach villages (>5km from closest health facility).

VMWs play a key role in control and prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria as well as in delivering behavioral change communication (BCC) interventions to this target population. Out photos shows a village malaria worker at a health center registering number of patients diagnosed and treated during a month.

Sara CHW image013Overall the study aimed to evaluate the implementation of these activities performed by VMW/MMWs, a quantitative and qualitative assessment was conducted in 5 provinces of western Cambodia in order to:

  • understand job satisfaction of VMWs and MMWs vis-a-vis their roles and responsibilities;
  • assess their performance according to their job descriptions;
  • gain insights into the challenges faced in delivery of diagnosis, treatment and health education activities to their communities.

A total of 196 VMWs/MMWs were surveyed in October 2011 using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Triangulation of quantitative and qualitative data helped to gain a deeper understanding of the success factors of this intervention and the challenges faced in implementation. The Map of Provinces shows ODs and HCs visited by the field team in zones 1 and 2 of the containment project.

Sara Results image018The Figure shows that overall, levels of VMW performance were in line with the expected performance (80%) and some were higher than expected. However, some performance gaps were identified in the areas of knowledge of malaria symptoms, treatment regimens, and key messages. In particular, there were low levels of practice of the recommended direct observed therapies (DOTs) approach for malaria treatment (especially for the second and third doses), reportedly caused by stock-outs, distance and transportation.

The national malaria program should aim to focus on improving knowledge of VMWs in order to address misconceptions and barriers to effective implementation of DOTs at community-levels. In addition to the findings, the tools developed, will potentially help the national program to come up with better indicators in the near future.

[1] Sara E. Canavati de la Torre1,2,8 Po Ly2, Chea Nguon3, Arantxa Roca-Feltrer4,9, David Sintasath5, Maxine Whittaker6, Pratap Singhasivanon7 – 1Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University/ Malaria Consortium Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; 2The National Centre of Parasitology and Malaria Control, Phnom Penh,, Cambodia; 3The National Centre of Parasitology and Malaria Control, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; 4Malaria Consortium Cambodia, Cambodia; 5Malaria Consortium Asia Regional Office, Bangkok, Thailand; 6 Australian Centre for International and Tropical Health, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia; 7Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand; 8Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand; 9London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, London, UK

Individual and Household Level Risk Factors Associated with Malaria in Mutasa District, Zimbabwe: a Serial Cross-Sectional Study

Mufaro Kanyangarara and her PhD thesis adviser, Luke Mullany of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Department of International Health, have been looking into the challenges of controlling and eventually eliminating malaria in a multi-country context in southern Africa. We are sharing abstracts from her pioneering work including the following which explores risk factors on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique order.

Background: Malaria constitutes a major public health problem in Zimbabwe, particularly in theMAP 2000 and 2015 S Africa north and east bordering Zambia and Mozambique. In Manicaland Province in eastern Zimbabwe, malaria transmission is seasonal and unstable. As a result of intensive scale up of malaria interventions, malaria control was successful in Manicaland Province. However, over the past decade, Manicaland Province has reported increased malaria transmission, and the resurgence of malaria in this region has been attributed to limited funding, drug resistance and insecticide resistance. One of the worst affected districts is Mutasa District. The aim of the study was to identify malaria risk factors at the individual and household levels to better understand what is driving factors associated with malaria and consequently enhance malaria control in eastern Zimbabwe.

Methods: Between October 2012 and September 2014, individual demographic data and household characteristics were collected from cross-sectional surveys of 1,116 individuals residing in 316 households in Mutasa District. Factors characterizing the surrounding environment were obtained from remote sensing data. Factors associated with malaria (measured by rapid diagnostic test [RDT]) were identified through univariate and multivariate multilevel logistic regression models.

Results: A total of 74 (6.4%) participants were RDT positive. Parasite prevalence differed by season (10.4% rainy and 2.9% dry, OR 4.52, 95% CI 2.11-9.69). Sleeping under a bednet showed a protective effect against malaria (OR 0.54, 95% CI 0.29-1.00) despite pyrethroid resistance. The household level risk factors protective against malaria were household density (OR 0.89, 95% CI 0.87-0.97) and increasing distance from the border with Mozambique (OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.76-0.97). Increased malaria risk was associated with recent indoor residual spraying (OR 2.30, 95% CI 1.16-4.56).

Conclusions: Malaria risk was concentrated in areas located at a lower household density and in closer proximity to the Mozambique border. Malaria control in these “high risk” areas may need to be enhanced. These findings underscore the need for strong cross-border malaria control initiatives to complement country specific interventions.

Malaria Status in the 2014-15 Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey

Rwanda is experiencing low and very low levels of malaria test positivity rates, thought there are a few districts near the borders with Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi that have relatively higher transmission. Overall the country is strategizing how to move toward the pre-elimination phase on the pathway to malaria elimination. This is defined as a test positivity rate of less than 5% during the high transmission season.

DHS 2010 Malaria Prevalence in Children 6-59 MonthsIt is important to distinguish between test positivity rate and prevalence rate. The most recent survey report that gives prevalence is the DHS 2010 with a rate of 1.4% in children below 5 years of age and 0.7% among women of reproductive age. During 2010 the health management information system shows that among those tested (microscopy or RDT) for malaria, 24% were positive. The population for test positivity reports is a much smaller group that is already suspected of having malaria. That said, 24% or the 2013 rate of 29% is still far from the 5% cut-off for pre-elimination status.

Rwanda still maintains a policy of universal coverage with insecticide treated nets (ITNs). Rwanda also has a policy that every pregnant woman should receive an ITN during her first antenatal care visit. Ideally in order to reach pre-elimination status, a country needs to sustain high coverage of malaria prevention and treatment interventions at an 80% level for several years.

The newly released preliminary results of the 2014-15 DHS provide an opportunity to examine achievements. The 2014-15 DHS found that 81% of households had at least one ITN, while 43% had achieved the universal coverage target of one ITN per two household members. These numbers remain basically unchanged from the 2013 Malaria Information Survey (83% and 43%), while the 2010 DHS found 82% of households had a net, but did not report on the indicator of one net per two people. In short, it appears that coverage levels have been maintained at a certain level.

DSCN7129a pregnant women get ITNs when register for ANC RwandaDHS 2014-15 shows that 99% of pregnant women in Rwanda received antenatal care from a skilled provider. That means that basically all pregnant women should have received an ITN. 73% of pregnant women had slept under an ITN the night before they were surveyed, while 88% of all women of reproductive age slept under a net. 68% of children below the age of five years slept under an ITN the night before their household was surveyed, while 80% who lived in households that owned an ITN did so.

Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) is focused on certain high transmission/burden districts. The preliminary 2014-15 DHS does not report on this and the 2013 MIS reports broadly by region, hence one sees coverage reports for IRS in the east (22%) and south (16%), where there is greater malaria burden, but this cannot be linked to specific districts that may have been targeted.

Rwanda also has a policy that all suspected malaria cases should be tested, whether with microscopy in health centers or rapid diagnostic tests by village health workers. It is only those persons testing positive for malaria who are supposed to be given malaria medicine.

DHS shows that 1439 children below five years of age (or 19% of the total) had fever in the two weeks prior to the survey. Of these 36% reported having a blood test performed, and 11% of those with fever received the approved artemisinin-based combination (ACT) therapy drug. The report does not indicate the actual testDSCN7282 results of those receiving ACT.

As Rwanda strategized toward reaching malaria pre-elimination status it can consider ways of enhancing ITN use, not only among vulnerable groups like small children and pregnant women, but all members of the household. As prevalence drops, so does acquired immunity, putting adults at greater risk.

The universal coverage target of at least 1 net for every two people in a household must be maintained, especially since it is nearing three years since the last universal coverage distribution campaign. Either another campaign will be needed or efforts to strengthen delivery of nets to families through routine health services.

In addition prompt and appropriate treatment based on diagnostics can be strengthened. One would have expected more children with fever to have been tested for malaria that the DHS reports.

Internal and external support is needed. Rwanda has been on the verge of reaching malaria pre-elimination status several times in the past decade. Even though malaria is no longer the top cause of death, we should not reduce our efforts to create a malaria-free Rwanda.

AIDS and Malaria: The Challenge of Co-Infection Persists

While the International AIDS Society is holding its 2015 meeting in Vancouver, it is important to remember that individual infectious diseases do not exist in isolation, but in combination make life worse for infected people. The co-infective culprit with HIV/AIDS that usually received the most attention is Tuberculosis, but malaria is not without its dangers. Herein we highlight a few recent studies and publications on the interactions between HIV and malaria.

Just because today malaria is primarily a tropical disease, it does not mean that people living with AIDS (PLHIV) in other parts of the world are not at risk. Schrumpf and colleagues point out that people living with HIV frequently travel to the tropics and thus may be at risk of infection by one of the species of malaria parasite. PLHIV are not unlike other travelers who do not always adhere with travel recommendations for using bednets and taking appropriate prophylaxis, but the consequence of non-adherence may be more severe.

In areas endemic for both malaria and HIV the effects of co-infection continue to be studied.  In westernDSCN6373 Kenya Rutto and co-workers report that, “HIV-1 status was not found to have effect on malaria infection, but the mean malaria parasite density was significantly higher in HIV-1 positive than the HIV-1 negative population.” So do malaria prevention and treatment interventions mitigate any of these problems?

Co-infection is not the only shared problem of these two diseases in areas where both are endemic. Yeatman et al. reported that, “In malaria-endemic contexts, where acute HIV symptoms are commonly mistaken for malaria, early diagnostic HIV testing and counseling should be integrated into health care settings where people commonly seek treatment for malaria.”

Mozambique has updated its guidelines for managing anemia among HIV-infected persons. The updated “guidelines for management of HIV-associated anemia prompts clinicians to consider opportunistic conditions, adverse drug reactions, and untreated immunosuppression in addition to iron deficiency, intestinal helminthes, and malaria.” Brentlinger and colleagues concluded that the guidelines are valuable in helping clinicians address anemia through a variety of interventions.

In areas where anti-retroviral treatment may be delayed, use of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLINs) might help. Again in Kenya, Verguet and fellow researchers conducted a cost analysis and concluded that, “Provision of LLIN and water filters could be a cost-saving and practical method to defer time to ART eligibility in the context of highly resource-constrained environments experiencing donor fatigue for HIV/AIDS programs.”

Introduction of universal cotrimoxazole prophylaxis for all HIV positive patients in Uganda is seen to have a positive effect on reducing malaria infections among HIV positive patients. Rubaihayo and research partners found this effect as well as reported on several other studies with similar results.

One key overall lessons from these studies is the need to have integrated services for prevention, detection and management of both malaria and HIV. National health programs as well as global donors should make integrated service delivery a priority.

Malaria or Ebola … Ebola or Malaria

The similarity of initial signs signs and symptoms for Malaria and Ebola have been a cause for concern since the beginning of the deadly West African outbreak of Ebola over a year ago. A year later we find that the confusion persists.

DSCN7914 Island ETU MonroviaUS News and World Report in a story on the three new Ebola cases that have ‘mysteriously’ appeared in the suburbs of Monrovia, Liberia addressed the treatment received by the teenager whose infection with Ebola was not determined until after he died. “Authorities have traced about 175 people who had contact with the dead teen, who first became ill June 21 and went to a local health facility where he was treated for malaria and discharged.”

In contrast the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps has reported on the disturbing management of a sick nurse serving in Sierra Leone. “A 27-year old British nurse (was) admitted to the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Unit, Sierra Leone, with symptoms fitting suspect-Ebola virus disease (EVD)
case criteria. A diagnosis of Plasmodium falciparum malaria and heat illness was ultimately made, both of which could have been prevented through employing simple measures not utilised in this case. The dual pathology of her presentation was atypical for either disease meaning EVD could not be immediately excluded. She remained isolated in the red zone (of an Ebola Treatment Center) until 72 hours from symptom onset.”

DSCN2552aIn both cases uninfected people are put at risk because of misdiagnoses. The health staff and community members in the Liberian example, the patient herself in Sierra Leone. In the Liberia situation it appears that health worker education is not complete if staff are not remaining on guard. Also as the number of specialized Ebola treatment units have closed, the triage process to identify and separate patients may have broken down.

The Sierra Leone example points out the need to maintain and enhance malaria prevention efforts to also prevent such mix-ups. Unfortunately public health efforts in the three affected countries to prevent malaria with insecticide treated nets were delayed, meaning the nurse’s experience may not be unique.

Once started, it appears that Ebola does not disappear completely. Another news report today looks into investigation of new suspected Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Ebola was first recognized in 1976. Misdiagnosis can be deadly.