Challenges in Diagnosing and Treating Acutely Febrile Children with Suspected Malaria at Health Care Facilities in the Lake Mwanza Region of Tanzania

Philip Koliopoulos, Neema Kayange*, Christian Jensen, Britta Gröndahl, Jana Eichmann, Tim Daniel, Florian Huth, Till Eckert, Nele Klamm, Marlene Follmann, Grey Carolina Medina-Montaño, Adolfine Hokororo, Leah Pretsch, Julia Klüber, Christian Schmidt, Antke Züchner, Marylyn M Addo, Bernard Okamo, Stephen E Mshana, Stephan Gehring

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Acute febrile diseases transmitted by mosquitos are a diagnostic challenge for pediatricians working in sub-Saharan Africa. Misclassification due to the lack of rapid, reliable diagnostic tests leads to the overuse of antibiotics and antimalarials. Children presenting with acute fever and suspected of having malaria were examined at health care facilities in the Mwanza Region of Tanzania. The sensitivity and specificity of blood smear microscopy and malaria rapid diagnostic tests that targeted histidine-rich protein 2 and Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase were compared with a multiplex reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-ELISA. Six hundred ninety-eight children presented with acute fever and met the criteria for inclusion; 23% received antibiotics and 23% received antimalarials prior to admission. Subsequently, 20% were confirmed by PCR to have Plasmodium falciparum infection. Blood smear microscopy exhibited 33% sensitivity and 93% specificity. The malaria rapid test provided 87% sensitivity and 98% specificity in detecting acute malaria infections. Only 7% of malaria-negative children received antimalarials at Sengerema Designated District Hospital when treatment was guided by the results of rapid testing. In contrast, 75% of malaria-negative patients were treated with antimalarial drugs at health facilities that used blood smears as the standard diagnostic test. Misclassification and premedication of nonmalarial, febrile illnesses contribute to the emergence of antimalarial and antimicrobial resistance. The incorporation of malaria rapid diagnostic tests into the clinical routine translated into improved treatment and a significant reduction in antimalarial drug prescriptions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Dec 2023


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