Background: In Zambia, there has been a large scaling up of interventions to control malaria in recent years including the deployment of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) to improve malaria surveillance data as well as guide malaria treatment in health facilities. The practical challenge is the impact of RDT results on subsequent management of patients. This study explored the role of RDTs in malaria diagnosis and the health workers' adherence to test results. Methods. An observational prospective study was carried out at health centres in four districts, namely Chibombo, Chingola, Chipata, and Choma. Children under the age of five years with history of fever were recruited and the clinicians' use of RDT results was observed to establish whether prescriptions were issued prior to the availability of parasitological results or after, and whether RDT results influenced their prescriptions. Results: Of the 2, 393 recruited children, 2, 264 had both RDT and microscopic results. Two in three (68.6%) children were treated with anti-malarials despite negative RDT results and almost half (46.2%) of these were prescribed Coartem®. Only 465 (19.4%) of the 2,393 children were prescribed drugs before receiving laboratory results. A total of 76.5% children were prescribed drugs after laboratory results. Children with RDT positive results were 2.66 (95% CI (2.00, 3.55)) times more likely to be prescribed anti-malarial drugs. Children who presented with fever at admission (although history of fever or presence of fever at admission was an entry criterion) were 42% less likely to be prescribed an anti-malarial drug compared to children who had no fever (AOR = 0.58; 95% CI (0.52, 0.65)). It was noted that proportions of children who were RDT- and microscopy-positive significantly declined over the years from 2005 to 2008. Conclusions: RDTs may contribute to treatment of febrile illness by confirming malaria cases from non-malaria cases in children under the age of five. However, the adherence of the health workers to prescribing anti-malarials to only RDT-positive cases at health facility level will still require to be explored further as their role is crucial in more precise reporting of malaria cases in this era towards malaria elimination as the target.
- Febrile illness
- Health centre
- Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases