Category Archives: Microscopy

Malaria News Today 2020-09-30: Diagnostics, Mosquito Genes and Neutrophils

Mosquito populations vary across nations and can be spurred by change in land use and deforestation as seen in Madagascar. Urine and saliva have potential in diagnostics but have lower sensitivity than blood tests. Not all insects have similar genes, and mosquitoes evolved a different gene to handle body segmentation. The DHS Program has released recent Malaria Indicator Surveys for Ghana and Uganda, but indicators are below targets. The emerging roles for neutrophils in malaria will be discussed at a webinar. Finally cost-effectiveness issues around RDTs is noted. More information can be obtained via the hyperlinks.

Variation in Anopheles distribution and predictors of malaria infection risk across regions of Madagascar

Deforestation and land use change is widespread in Madagascar, altering local ecosystems and creating opportunities for disease vectors, such as the Anopheles mosquito, to proliferate and more easily reach vulnerable, rural populations. Knowledge of risk factors associated with malaria infections is growing globally, but these associations remain understudied across Madagascar’s diverse ecosystems experiencing rapid environmental change. This study aims to uncover socioeconomic, demographic, and ecological risk factors for malaria infection across regions through analysis of a large, cross-sectional dataset.

The presence of aquatic agriculture (both within and surrounding communities) is the strongest predictive factor of habitats containing Anopheles larvae across all regions. Ecological and socioeconomic risk factors for malaria infection vary dramatically across study regions and range in their complexity. Risk factors for malaria transmission differ dramatically across regions of Madagascar. These results may help stratifying current malaria control efforts in Madagascar beyond the scope of existing interventions.

Evaluating the potential of using urine and saliva specimens for malaria diagnosis in suspected patients in Ghana

This study aimed at detecting PfHRP2 and pLDH malaria antigens in urine and salivary specimens of suspected malaria patients using RDT kits, and identifying factors influencing the detection of these antigens. Malaria rapid test kit (SD Bioline RDT kit) was used to detect malaria antigens, PfHRP2 and pLDH, in blood, urine and saliva samples received from patients suspected of malaria. Subsequently, malaria parasitaemia was determined.

A total of 706 suspected malaria patients provided all three specimens. Prevalence of malaria by microscopy and RDT was 44.2% and 53.9%, respectively. Compared to blood, the sensitivities of urine and saliva were 35.2% and 57.0% respectively. Haemoglobin concentration?<?9.9 g/dL, body temperature?>?38.7 °C and occult blood influenced the detection of malaria antigens in both urine and saliva. Furthermore, the antigens were not detected in urine and saliva when parasitaemia was?<?60,000 parasites/µL and?<?40,000 parasites/µL, respectively.

Saliva, with or without blood contamination, was found to be more efficient that urine samples. Therefore these non-blood specimens have the potential to be used as non-invasive samples for malaria diagnosis. However, this approach is useful in severe to moderate anaemia, hyperthermia, parasitaemia?>?60,000 parasites/µL and samples contaminated with blood.

Mosquitos lost an essential gene for body segmentation with no ill effects

University of Maryland entomologists discovered that a gene critical for survival in other insects is missing in mosquitoes—the gene responsible for properly arranging the insects’ segmented bodies. The researchers also found that a related gene evolved to take over the missing gene’s job. Although laboratory studies have shown that similar genes can be engineered to substitute for one another, this is the first time that scientists identified a gene that naturally evolved to perform the same critical function as a related gene long after the two genes diverged down different evolutionary paths.

The work emphasizes the importance of caution in genetic studies that use model animals to make conclusions across different species. It also points to a new potential avenue for research into highly targeted mosquito control strategies. The research study was published in the September 30, 2020, issue of the journal Communications Biology. “Every single arthropod has a segmented body plan. And you would think it develops the same way in all of them. But what we found is that it doesn’t,” said Alys Jarvela. “That means different genes probably regulate male fertility in mosquitoes, and they might be unique to the mosquito, which could potentially provide a powerful avenue for controlling mosquitoes without harming other insects such as butterflies and bees,” Jarvela said.

Two New Malaria Indicator Surveys Available

Ghana 2019 MIS/DHS Infographic. Malaria prevalence going down from 27% in 2014 to 14% in 2019. Still below target in terms of ITN coverage of and in households.

Uganda 2018-19 MIS/DHS Infographic.  Wide regional variation in malaria prevalence from 1-5% in the southwest to 34% in the northeast. ITN use by children and pregnant women below 2/3rds, while only 2/5 pregnant women got 3 doses of IPT.

Emerging Roles for Neutrophils in Malaria

Aubrey Cunnington and an interdisciplinary translational research group studying host-pathogen interactions in severe infections, focussing on malaria in particular. See for example,  “A More Granular View of Neutrophils in Malaria

Neutrophils are abundant innate immune cells with crucial roles in immunity and vascular inflammation. Recent evidence indicates that neutrophils have a dual role in malaria, contributing to both pathogenesis and control of Plasmodium. We discuss emerging mechanisms behind these opposing functions and identify key outstanding questions.

Cost-effectiveness analysis of malaria rapid diagnostic test in the elimination setting

As more and more countries approaching the goal of malaria elimination, malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) was recomended to be a diagnostic strategy to achieve and maintain the statute of malaria free, as it’s less requirements on equipment and expertise than microscopic examination. But there are very few economic evaluations to confirm whether RDT was cost-effective in the setting of malaria elimination. This research aimed to offer evidence for helping decision making on malaria diagnosis strategy.

The results showed that RDT strategy was the most effective (245 cases) but also the most costly (United States Dollar [USD] 4.47 million) compared to using microscopy alone (238 cases, USD 3.63 million), and RDT followed by microscopy (221 cases, USD 2.75 million). There was no strategy dominated. One-way sensitivity analysis reflected that the result was sensitive to the change in labor cost and two-way sensitivity analysis indicated that the result was not sensitive to the proportion of falciparum malaria. The result of Monte Carlo simulation showed that RDT strategy had higher effects and higher cost than other strategies with a high probability. Compared to microscopy and RDT followed by microscopy, RDT strategy had higher effects and higher cost in the setting of malaria elimination.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-22: covering three continents

Today’s stories cover three continents including Surveillance for imported malaria in Sri Lanka, community perceptions in Colombia and Annual Fluctuations in Malaria Transmission Intensity in 5 sub-Saharan countries. In addition there is an overview of microscopy standards and an Integrated Macroeconomic Epidemiological Demographic Model to aid in planning malaria elimination. We also see how COVID-19 is disturbing Seasonal Malaria Chemoprevention activities in Burkina Faso. Read more by following the links in the sections below.

Will More of the Same Achieve Malaria Elimination?

Results from an Integrated Macroeconomic Epidemiological Demographic Model. Historic levels of funding have reduced the global burden of malaria in recent years. Questions remain, however, as to whether scaling up interventions, in parallel with economic growth, has made malaria elimination more likely today than previously. The consequences of “trying but failing” to eliminate malaria are also uncertain. Reduced malaria exposure decreases the acquisition of semi-immunity during childhood, a necessary phase of the immunological transition that occurs on the pathway to malaria elimination. During this transitional period, the risk of malaria resurgence increases as proportionately more individuals across all age-groups are less able to manage infections by immune response alone. We developed a robust model that integrates the effects of malaria transmission, demography, and macroeconomics in the context of Plasmodium falciparum malaria within a hyperendemic environment.

The authors analyzed the potential for existing interventions, alongside economic development, to achieve malaria elimination. Simulation results indicate that a 2% increase in future economic growth will increase the US$5.1 billion cumulative economic burden of malaria in Ghana to US$7.2 billion, although increasing regional insecticide-treated net coverage rates by 25% will lower malaria reproduction numbers by just 9%, reduce population-wide morbidity by ?0.1%, and reduce prevalence from 54% to 46% by 2034. As scaling up current malaria control tools, combined with economic growth, will be insufficient to interrupt malaria transmission in Ghana, high levels of malaria control should be maintained and investment in research and development should be increased to maintain the gains of the past decade and to minimize the risk of resurgence, as transmission drops. © The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [open-access]

Microscopy standards to harmonise methods for malaria clinical research studies

Research Malaria Microscopy Standards (ReMMS) applicable to malaria clinical research studies have been published in Malaria Journal. The paper describes the rationale for proposed standards to prepare, stain and examine blood films for malaria parasites. The standards complement the methods manual(link is external) previously published by the World Health Organization and UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). The standards aim to promote consistency and comparability of data from microscopy performed for malaria research and hence to strengthen evidence for improvements in malaria prevention, diagnostics and treatment.

Microscopy is important in both malaria diagnosis and research. It is used to differentiate between Plasmodium species and stages and to estimate parasite density in the blood – an important determinant of the severity of disease. It is also used to monitor the effectiveness of drugs based on the rate at which parasites recrudesce or are cleared from the blood.

While rapid diagnostic tests have replaced microscopy in some contexts, microscopy remains an essential tool to support clinical diagnosis and research. The standardisation of methods allows direct comparisons from studies conducted across different points in time and location. This facilitates individual participant data meta-analyses, recognised as the gold standard approach to generate evidence for improvements in interventions and hence patient outcomes.

Estimating Annual Fluctuations in Malaria Transmission Intensity and in the Use of Malaria Control Interventions in Five Sub-Saharan African Countries

RTS,S/AS01E malaria vaccine safety, effectiveness, and impact will be assessed in pre- and post-vaccine introduction studies, comparing the occurrence of malaria cases and adverse events in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children. Because those comparisons may be confounded by potential year-to-year fluctuations in malaria transmission intensity and malaria control intervention usage, the latter should be carefully monitored to adequately adjust the analyses. This observational cross-sectional study is assessing Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence (PfPR) and malaria control intervention usage over nine annual surveys performed at peak parasite transmission. Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence was measured by microscopy and nucleic acid amplification test (quantitative PCR) in parallel in all participants, and defined as the proportion of infected participants among participants tested. Results of surveys 1 (S1) and 2 (S2), conducted in five sub-Saharan African countries, including some participating in the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP), are reported herein; 4,208 and 4,199 children were, respectively, included in the analyses.

Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence estimated using microscopy varied between study sites in both surveys, with the lowest prevalence in Senegalese sites and the highest in Burkina Faso. In sites located in the MVIP areas (Kintampo and Kombewa), PfPR in children aged 6 months to 4 years ranged from 24.8% to 27.3%, depending on the study site and the survey. Overall, 89.5% and 86.4% of children used a bednet in S1 and S2, of whom 68.7% and 77.9% used impregnated bednets. No major difference was observed between the two surveys in terms of PfPR or use of malaria control interventions. © The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [open-access]

Community perception of malaria in a vulnerable municipality in the Colombian Pacific

Malaria primarily affects populations living in poor socioeconomic conditions, with limited access to basic services, deteriorating environmental conditions, and barriers to accessing health services. Control programmes are designed without participation from the communities involved, ignoring local knowledge and sociopolitical and cultural dynamics surrounding their main health problems, which implies imposing decontextualized control measures that reduce coverage and the impact of interventions. The objective of this study was to determine the community perception of malaria in the municipality of Olaya Herrera in the Colombian Pacific.

A 41-question survey on knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) related to malaria, the perception of actions by the Department of Health, and access to the health services network was conducted. In spite of the knowledge about malaria and the efforts of the Department of Health to prevent it, the community actions do not seem to be consistent with this knowledge, as the number of cases of malaria is still high in the area.

Use of a Plasmodium vivax genetic barcode for genomic surveillance and parasite tracking in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was certified as a malaria-free nation in 2016; however, imported malaria cases continue to be reported. Evidence-based information on the genetic structure/diversity of the parasite populations is useful to understand the population history, assess the trends in transmission patterns, as well as to predict threatening phenotypes that may be introduced and spread in parasite populations disrupting elimination programmes. This study used a previously developed Plasmodium vivax single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) barcode to evaluate the population dynamics of P. vivax parasite isolates from Sri Lanka and to assess the ability of the SNP barcode for tracking the parasites to its origin.

A total of 51 P. vivax samples collected during 2005–2011, mainly from three provinces of the country, were genotyped for 40 previously identified P. vivax SNPs using a high-resolution melting (HRM), single-nucleotide barcode method. The proportion of multi-clone infections was significantly higher in isolates collected during an infection outbreak in year 2007. Plasmodium vivax parasite isolates collected during a disease outbreak in year 2007 were more genetically diverse compared to those collected from other years. In-silico analysis using the 40 SNP barcode is a useful tool to track the origin of an isolate of uncertain origin, especially to differentiate indigenous from imported cases. However, an extended barcode with more SNPs may be needed to distinguish highly clonal populations within the country.

Coronavirus rumours and regulations mar Burkina Faso’s malaria fight

By Sam Mednick, Thomson Reuters Foundation: MOAGA, Burkina Faso – Health worker Estelle Sanon would hold the 18-month-old and administer the SMC dose herself, but because of coronavirus she has to keep a distance from her patients. “If I am standing and watching the mother do it, it’s as if I’m not doing my work,” said Sanon, a community health volunteer assisting in a seasonal campaign to protect children in the West African country from the deadly mosquito-borne disease.

Burkina Faso is one of the 10 worst malaria-affected nations in the world, accounting for 3% of the estimated 405,000 malaria deaths globally in 2018, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). More than two-thirds of victims are children under five. Now there are fears malaria cases could rise in Burkina Faso as restrictions due to coronavirus slow down a mass treatment campaign and rumours over the virus causing parents to hide their children, according to health workers and aid officials.

“COVID-19 has the potential to worsen Burkina Faso’s malaria burden,” said Donald Brooks, head of the U.S. aid group Initiative: Eau, who has worked on several public health campaigns in the country.  “If preventative campaigns can’t be thoroughly carried out and if people are too scared to come to health centres … it could certainly increase the number of severe cases and the risk of poor outcomes.”

During peak malaria season, from July to November, community health workers deploy across Burkina Faso to treat children with seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). This is the second year the campaign will cover the whole country with more than 50,000 volunteers going door-to-door, said Gauthier Tougri, coordinator for the country’s anti-malaria programme. Logistics were already challenging. Violence linked to jihadists and local militias has forced more than one million people to flee their homes, shuttered health clinics and made large swathes of land inaccessible. Now the coronavirus has made the task even harder, health workers said.

People in Cape Verde evolved better malaria resistance in 550 years

Yes, we are still evolving. And one of the strongest examples of recent evolution in people has been found on the Cape Verde islands in the Atlantic, where a gene variant conferring a form of malaria resistance has become more common.

Portuguese voyagers settled the uninhabited islands in 1462, bringing slaves from Africa with them. Most of the archipelago’s half a million inhabitants are descended from these peoples. Most people of West African origin have a variant in a gene called DARC that protects.

Deadly malaria and cholera outbreaks grow amongst refugees as COVID pandemic strains health systems.

Apart from the strain on health facilities during the pandemic, in some countries such as Somalia, Kenya and Sierra Leone, we are seeing that a fear of exposure to COVID-19 has prevented parents from taking their children to hospital, delaying diagnosis and treatment of malaria and increasing preventable deaths. COVID restrictions in some countries have also meant pregnant women have missed antimalarial drugs. Untreated malaria in pregnant women can increase the risk of anaemia, premature births, low birth weight and infant death. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of programs designed to fight HIV, tuberculosis and malaria have been disrupted due to the pandemic and 46% of 68 countries report experiencing disruptions in the treatment and diagnosis of malaria.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-10

These malaria and related news and abstracts stress the importance of sentinel surveillance systems, strong political and systems commitment to disease elimination, malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification for better malaria detection, and the threat of neglected fungal infections. An article from The Lancet shows that it is not just money that is needed to eliminate malaria, but better management and systems. Finally a bit of history from 18th Century North Carolina is shared. Click the links in each section to learn more about each topic.

Implementation of a malaria sentinel surveillance system in Togo: a pilot study

Since July 2017, 16 health facilities called sentinel sites, 4 hospitals and 12 peripheral care units located in 2 epidemiologically different health regions of Togo, have provided weekly data on malaria morbidity and mortality for the following 3 target groups:?<?5-years-old children,???5-years-old children and adults, and pregnant women. Data from week 29 in 2017 to week 13 in 2019 were analysed.

Each sentinel site provided complete data and the median time to data entry was 4 days. The number of confirmed malaria cases increased during the rainy seasons both in children under 5 years old and in children over 5 years old and adults. Malaria-related deaths occurred mainly in children under 5 years old and increased during the rainy seasons. The mean percentage of tested cases for malaria among suspected malaria cases was 99.0%. The mean percentage of uncomplicated malaria cases handled in accordance with national guidelines was 99.4%. The mean percentage of severe malaria cases detected in peripheral care units that were referred to a hospital was 100.0%. Rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination therapies were out of stock several times, mainly at the beginning and end of the year. No hospital was out of stock of injectable artesunate or injectable artemether.

These indicators showed good management of malaria cases in the sentinel sites. Real-time availability of data requires a good follow-up of data entry on the online platform. The management of input stocks and the promptness of data need to be improved to meet the objectives of this malaria sentinel surveillance system.

Evaluation of the colorimetric malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification (MG-LAMP) assay …

… for the detection of malaria species at two different health facilities in a malaria endemic area of western Kenya. Prompt diagnosis and effective malaria treatment is a key strategy in malaria control. However, the recommended diagnostic methods, microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), are not supported by robust quality assurance systems in endemic areas. This study compared the performance of routine RDTs and smear microscopy with a simple molecular-based colorimetric loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) at two different levels of the health care system in a malaria-endemic area of western Kenya.

Patients presenting with clinical symptoms of malaria at Rota Dispensary (level 2) and Siaya County Referral Hospital (level 4) were enrolled into the study after obtaining written informed consent. Capillary blood was collected to test for malaria by RDT and microscopy at the dispensary and county hospital, and for preparation of blood smears and dried blood spots (DBS) for expert microscopy and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Results of the routine diagnostic tests were compared with those of malachite green loop-mediated isothermal amplification (MG-LAMP) performed at the two facilities.
A total of 264 participants were enrolled into the study. At the dispensary level, the positivity rate by RDT, expert microscopy, MG-LAMP and RT-PCR was 37%, 30%, 44% and 42%, respectively, and 42%, 43%, 57% and 43% at the county hospital. Using RT-PCR as the reference test, the sensitivity of RDT and MG-LAMP was 78.1% (CI 67.5–86.4) and 82.9% (CI 73.0–90.3) at Rota dispensary.

At Siaya hospital the sensitivity of routine microscopy and MG-LAMP was 83.3% (CI 65.3–94.4) and 93.3% (CI 77.9–99.2), respectively. Compared to MG-LAMP, there were 14 false positives and 29 false negatives by RDT at Rota dispensary and 3 false positives and 13 false negatives by routine microscopy at Siaya Hospital. MG-LAMP is more sensitive than RDTs and microscopy in the detection of malaria parasites at public health facilities and might be a useful quality control tool in resource-limited settings.

Terminating Trachoma. How Myanmar eliminated blinding trachoma.

Download the book  from WHO New Delhi: World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.  Myanmar’s three-phase approach to eliminating trachoma has been a great success, which will certainly continue. The country’s visionary National Eye Health Plan 2017-2021, which is closely aligned with international policies for prevention of blindness, gives confidence that Myanmar will maintain its elimination status. This book chronicles how a combination of good leadership, effective partnerships, health-care facilities and hardworking health-care personnel helped Myanmar eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.

Health sector spending and spending on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and development assistance for health, SDG Progress

Although the progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, has been assessed in various works, there is less research focusing on tracking spending towards this goal. In this study, spending estimates were used to determine progress in financing the priority areas of SDG3, examine the correlation between outcomes and financing, and identify where resource gains are most required to attain the SDG3 indicators for which data are available.

From 1995 to 2017, domestic health spending was determined, disaggregated by source (government, out-of-pocket, and prepaid private) for 195 countries and territories. Outcomes suggest a global rise in total health spending since the state of the SDGs in 2015, reaching $7·9 trillion (7·8–8·0) in 2017, and is estimated to rise to $11·0 trillion (10·7–11·2) by 2030, although with substantial disparity across countries. Per estimates, low-income and middle-income countries, in 2017, had an estimated spending of $20·2 billion on HIV/AIDS, $10·9 billion on tuberculosis, and $5·1 billion on malaria in endemic countries.

Although there is an increase in both domestic government and DAH spending, across these three diseases, variation in the accompanied changes in outcomes was observed. Malaria was noted to have the most consistent reductions in outcomes across countries as spending has raised. Findings thereby suggest mixed progress towards meeting the SDG3 targets; the progress varied by country and by target. The evidence on the scale-up of spending and improvements in health outcomes suggest a nuanced relationship, such that outcomes do not always improve with increases in spending.

Although more resources may be required by the countries to achieve SDG3, there will also be a necessity for addressing other constraints in the broader health system such as inefficient allocation of resources across interventions and populations, weak governance systems, human resource shortages, and drug shortages.

Ignored fungal infections kill more people annually than HIV and malaria combined

Carolina Pohl-Albertyn says that, “You may also know that there are other infections causing great concern, such as HIV (690 000 deaths/year), tuberculosis (1.5-million deaths/year), and malaria (405,000 deaths/year). But what would be your reaction if you knew that fungal infections (ranging from skin and mucosal infections (e.g. vaginal or oral thrush) to deadly systemic and organ infections (e.g. candidiasis, cryptococcal meningitis, and bronchopulmonary aspergillosis]) affect more than one-billion people each year, of which more than 150-million cases are severe and life-threatening and cause 1.7 million deaths per year?”

Malaria was once scourge in Chowan County, North Carolina

Nicole Bowman-Layton (Editor) provides some history of malaria. It’s fascinating to think that less than 100 years ago this disease was still a major scourge in Chowan County. I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a long time since the coronavirus popped up but was a bit concerned about writing about a somewhat depressing topic.

According to NCPedia malaria came to North Carolina in the 1500s from some of the first European explorers who were bitten by our friendly Anopheles mosquitoes and then transmitted to the native population. And as we well know, we live in a very damp environment surrounded by sitting water which certainly increases the harvest of mosquitos. Some of the most prominent Revolutionary Edentonians suffered from the “Ague” during their lives. Declaration signer Joseph Hewes suffered from “intermittent fever and ague” throughout his life which were certainly symptoms of malaria.

The German traveler Dr. Johan Schoepf wrote in his book Travels in the Confederation, 1783-1784, of “…the sickliness of the inhabitants, especially prevalent in the low, overflowed, and swampy parts of this country, and giving the people a pale, decayed, and prematurely old look. This is the case not only about Edenton, but along the entire low-lying coast, which this fall, from Virginia to South Carolina, was visited with numerous fevers.

Malaria News Today 2020-09-04

Today, we are sharing more updates from newsletters and journal abstracts found online. Issues include citizens in Rwanda trapping mosquitoes, the need for standardizing microscopy, more information on Uganda’s Malaria fund, the challenge of containing three epidemics at once, an increase in cases in Namibia and genetic diversity of the parasite in Comoros. Click on links to read details.

Citizen science shows great potential to reduce malaria burden

A year-long collection of mosquitoes with self-made traps and over a hundred volunteers in rural Rwanda reporting levels of mosquito nuisance revealed when and where malaria risks were the highest. In addition to their reporting, the volunteers appeared to distribute knowledge and skills on controlling malaria within communities. Studies by Wageningen University & Research and the University of Rwanda show that citizen science has great potential to reduce the disease burden across the globe.

Uganda renews fight to eliminate malaria by 2030 – more on Malaria Free Uganda Fund

Uganda says it is fast-tracking efforts to eliminate malaria, which continues to take lives and bleed the country’s economy more than any other disease. The disease is responsible for 30 to 40 percent of outpatient hospital visits, 15 to 20 percent of admissions, and 10 percent of inpatient deaths, mostly pregnant mothers and children, according to the health ministry figures. The country on September 2 launched the board of directors of the Malaria Free Uganda Fund as part of its continued investment to eliminate the disease by 2030, as per the global target.

Malaria Free Uganda Fund is a nonprofit public-private partnership established to mainstream responsibility for malaria across all sectors and help remove financial and operational bottlenecks in fighting the disease. The National Malaria Control Program currently faces a three-year 206 U.S. million dollars budget gap, or 33 percent of the total, according to the ministry of health.  External donors, according to the ministry, fund over 95 percent of the fight against the disease in the country. The country is now looking at domestic resourcing in view of the global uncertainties like the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting foreign financing. “The talent and experience we have mobilized to this board from the private and civil society will help the government achieve a significant reduction of malaria cases and deaths in Uganda,” said Ruth Aceng, minister of health while launching the board here.

Namibia records 12,507 malaria cases, 40 deaths in 2020

Namibia’s malaria cases this year increased to 12,507 from 2,841 recorded in 2019, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health. The southern African country recorded 31,000 cases of malaria in 2018. The National Vector-borne Diseases Control Program from the Health Ministry which monitors the weekly malaria situation in the country shows that this year alone 12,507 malaria cases where recorded, while 40 deaths occurred.

The ministry said the huge difference between 2019 and this year is attributed to the fact that 2019, was a drought year and the rainfall pattern was not similar to 2020 and 2018, hence the decline in malaria cases happened in 2019. According to the ministry, currently the implementation of the program activities amid COVID-19 is on halt due to some bottlenecks.

Congo sees increase in plague, at least 10 deaths this year

DR Congo is seeing an upsurge in cases of the plague, as the vast Central African nation also battles outbreaks of COVID-19 and Ebola. Since June, Congo has recorded at least 65 cases of the plague, including at least 10 deaths, in the eastern Ituri province according to Ituri provincial chief of health Dr. Louis Tsolu. While the plague is endemic in Ituri province, the number of cases is increasing and has already surpassed the total recorded in 2019 which had 48 cases and eight deaths, according to WHO.

Towards harmonization of microscopy methods for malaria clinical research studies

Microscopy performed on stained films of peripheral blood for detection, identification and quantification of malaria parasites is an essential reference standard for clinical trials of drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests for malaria. The value of data from such research is greatly enhanced if this reference standard is consistent across time and geography. Adherence to common standards and practices is a prerequisite to achieve this. The rationale for proposed research standards and procedures for the preparation, staining and microscopic examination of blood films for malaria parasites is presented here with the aim of improving the consistency and reliability of malaria microscopy performed in such studies.

These standards constitute the core of a quality management system for clinical research studies employing microscopy as a reference standard. They can be used as the basis for the design of training and proficiency testing programmes as well as for procedures and quality assurance of malaria microscopy in clinical research.

Genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum in Grande Comore Island

Despite several control interventions resulting in a considerable decrease in malaria prevalence in the Union of the Comoros, the disease remains a public health problem with high transmission in Grande Comore compared to neighbouring islands. In this country, only a few studies investigating the genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum have been performed so far. For this reason, this study aims to examine the genetic diversity of P. falciparum by studying samples collected in Grande Comore in 2012 and 2013, using merozoite surface protein 1 (msp1), merozoite surface protein 2 (msp2) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genetic markers.

Intensive Malaria Microscopy Training in Rwanda

Noella Umulisa, Veneranda Umubyeyi, Tharcisse Munyaneza, Ruzindana Emmanuel, Aline Uwimana, Stephen Mutwiwa, and Aimable Mbituyumuremyi presented “Assessment of Competence of Participants Before and After 6-day Intensive Malaria Microscopy Training in Rwanda” at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicines and Hygiene. (Affiliations: Maternal and Child Survival Program/Jhpiego, Malaria and Other Parasitic Diseases Division [Mal & OPDD], National Reference Laboratory, Rwanda Biomedical Centre [RBC]). Their findings are shared below.

WHO recommends prompt malaria diagnosis either by microscopy or malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT) in all patients with suspected malaria before treatment is administered. Light Microscopy remains the mainstay of malaria diagnosis, allows the identification of different malaria-causing parasites (P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae and P. ovale). It is estimated that a diagnostic test with 95% sensitivity and 95% specificity requiring minimal infrastructure would avert more than 100,000 deaths and about 400 million unnecessary treatments. Frequent delays occur since conventional microscopy methods are labour intensive, require skilled manpower and time

Sufficient training of laboratory staff is paramount for the correct microscopy diagnosis of malaria. In Rwanda, P. falciparum is by far the most common contributing 97-99% of the parasite population, followed by P. ovale with 0.5-2% and followed by P. malariae 0.5–1% as mono-infection.

Rwanda has 8 referral hospitals, 4 provincial hospitals, 36 district hospitals, 504 health centers, 818 health posts and 30,000 CHWs able to perform malaria diagnostics. Each of these health facilities has a laboratory able to perform malaria microscopy with at least 1 trained lab technician and 1 functioning microscope.

In May 2018, the Rwanda Biomedical Center and partners trained 1 lab technician per health center from 6 poor performing districts in malaria microscopy. The main objective was to evaluate the performance of laboratory technicians in detecting and quantifying malaria parasites from 75 health facilities within 6 districts in Rwanda. Information was collected at two points in time.

In Month 1 there were a Pre-Test for Theoretical and practical evaluation, a Practical session, Slides preparation practice, and detection of parasite’s density and species. This was followed by the Post-Test, again a Theoretical and practical evaluation

In Month 4 Post training follow up was conducted with 35 randomly selected trained lab technicians after 4 months. Observation of technicians’ Conduct visual inspection and maneuvers used in routine malaria diagnosis was done. Their ability to Detect parasites on a standardized pre-validated slide panel of five slides was determined. during this 4 Months Post-Training Species Detection Performance, P. Falciparum was identified correctly more often than P. ovale or P. malariae.

The attached charts show the results of training. During the training 75 technicians from 75 health centers in 6 districts were trained from May 28th–June 18th, 2018. 53% of the trained lab technicians were female and 47% male.

Correct Parasite Density was slightly higher just after training. Classic training improved the performance of lab technicians in parasite’s density from 53% to 87% immediately after training.

After 4 months of training, P. falciparum and P. ovalae were correctly detected by 93% and 79% of lab technicians, respectively. Also, after 4 months of training, P. malariae was detected only by 68% of evaluated lab technicians. Training: Sensitivity (99%) and specificity (85%) remain high. Performance of lab technicians assessed using standardized pre-validated slide panel as gold standard after >4 months

Trainings of lab technicians improves performance on malaria parasites density and species detection. P. falciparum is the most well detected species followed by P. ovale . The detection rate for P. malariae was the lowest, this can be explained by the fact is not often seen in Rwanda. Participants had high sensitivity and specificity in the detection of malaria parasites.

Continuous capacity building for lab staff is needed to ensure accurate malaria laboratory diagnosis for appropriate treatment. Malaria microscopy diagnosis quality control/assurance activities from central and district level to health center level should be strengthen for continuous capacity building of lab technicians

Acknowledgements: This poster was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the terms of the Cooperative Agreement AID-OAA-A-14-00028. The contents are the responsibility of the Maternal and Child Survival Program and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.