New malaria test kit likely to improve malaria diagnosis, especially in remote settings.

Research published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases has shown that a new type of malaria test may become very important in diagnosing malaria both in big laboratories and in remote locations with very limited laboratory facilities. Malaria is not a major problem in Australia, about 500 cases are diagnosed every year in travellers returning from overseas. However on a global scale malaria is still a huge problem. Around 500 hundred million people in Africa, India, South East Asia and South America are exposed to endemic malaria and it is estimated to cause two and a half million deaths annually, one million of which are children.

The new test uses a recently-developed form of DNA amplification; Loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), that can be carried out in one tube without the sophisticated thermal cycling instruments required for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The result can be read just by looking at a colour change in the tube. Two studies compared the new test to existing methods in London laboratories that deal with imported cases of malaria to the UK, and to diagnostic methods used in the field in Uganda, where malaria is a leading cause of illness and death.

In the London study the LAMP test performed just as well as the existing tests and detected all cases of malaria. In the remote location in Uganda the LAMP test performed much better than the existing manual method of looking for malaria parasites in red blood cells under the microscope.

Because the new test requires no refrigeration and is simple enough to be performed by non-specialist health workers, it will allow rapid diagnosis of malaria infections in remote clinics and hospitals and thus treatment to be started early. This is important because if malaria is allowed to progress before treatment is started there is a higher risk of complications such as organ failure which may lead to death.

The LAMP malaria test is commercially available and was developed by the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, London and Eiken Chemical Company Ltd, Japan. The studies were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of The Netherlands, and the UK Department for International Development.

Article sources

Science Daily: 

S. D. Polley, I. J. Gonzalez, D. Mohamed, R. Daly, K. Bowers, J. Watson, E. Mewse, M. Armstrong, C. Gray, M. D. Perkins, D. Bell, H. Kanda, N. Tomita, Y. Kubota, Y. Mori, P. L. Chiodini, C. J. Sutherland. Clinical Evaluation of a LAMP test kit for Diagnosis of Imported Malaria.Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2013; DOI:10.1093/infdis/jit183

H. Hopkins, I. J. Gonzalez, S. D. Polley, P. Angutoko, J. Ategeka, C. Asiimwe, B. Agaba, D. J. Kyabayinze, C. J. Sutherland, M. D. Perkins, D. Bell. Highly sensitive detection of malaria parasitemia in an endemic setting: Performance of a new LAMP kit in a remote clinic in Uganda. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2013; DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jit184

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