Rapid diagnostic tests for malaria: past, present and future

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Prompt and accurate diagnosis of malaria is part of an effective disease management [1] because, if not treated, malaria can quickly become life threatening. On the other hand, false positives increase treatment costs and drug-induced resistance, giving a wrong idea of therapeutic efficacy. Since the symptoms of malaria are nonspecific, the observation of clinical features alone might not be enough and should be confirmed with parasitological analysis. Microscopic examination of Giemsa-stained thin and/or thick blood smears remains the conventional approach for diagnosis [2]. The sensitivity of this relatively inexpensive method is excellent, allowing the detection of as few as five parasites per microliter (5 parasites/µl) of blood, and permitting also the determination of the infecting species and of the developmental stage of circulating pathogens. In addition, smears provide a permanent record for quality assessment of the diagnosis.

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