New perspectives: malaria diagnosis. Report of a joint WHO/USAID informal consultation (archived)
The introduction of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria is of considerable interest. Such tests use immunochromatographic methods to detect Plasmodium-specific antigens in a finger-prick blood sample. The tests can be performed in approximately 15 minutes by individuals with minimal training, using test kits that require no electricity and no special equipment. Compared to microscopy, the main disadvantages of currently available RDTs are: lack of sensitivity at low levels of parasitaemia, inability to quantify parasite density, inability to differentiate between P. vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae.
Diagnostic tests (microscopy and RDTs), used correctly, can contribute to better and more cost-effective disease management and can reduce the unnecessary and irrational use of antimalarial drugs.