The Ministry of Health has clarified on the ‘improved rapid diagnostic’ malaria test kits which are to be availed in various health centres. This comes after the results from the diagnosis of malaria in a hospital in Mpigi district showed that the existing standard rapid diagnostic kits have issues.
The Ministry of Health, in response, used the improved, highly sensitive rapid diagnostic kits, through which undetected cases of symptomatic malaria were discovered. This was in the case of pregnant women.
Jimmy Opiga, the Health Ministry Commissioner for malaria control, said that the current standard tests have served their purpose, and are still serving their purpose.
“When you get infected with malaria, the parasites multiply inside you. If you have partial immunity, especially the adults who have had malaria several times and get the partial immunity, you can keep the malaria at check. Once the parasite density goes high, you will develop fever and malaria symptoms,” he explained.
He said that at that level of density, the standard tests are able to detect malaria; including microscopes.
He educated that one can have a malaria infection; but not the malaria disease, just as one can have HIV without AIDS.
Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, earlier said that the highly sensitive rapid diagnostic kits will be incorporated in the existing health system.
Dr. Opiga further explained the importance of having a sensitive test.
“For pregnant mothers, most of the parasites move away and hide in the placenta. While there, they damage the unborn baby; causing underweight, and miscarriages. These will go undetected because the volume of parasites in the mother’s blood will be low as majority are going to the baby,” he said.
This, Opiga said, also explains why most of the times, expectant mothers are given malaria treatment since the parasites cannot be detected.
He gave accountability for the failure of some kits.
“It may be the quality of that particular test, or the person conducting it has not handled it properly; but also, the level of malaria in one’s body may or may not have reached the stage where it can be detected, hence there can be some false positives,” Opiga stressed.
He added that one could also be having other rare forms of malaria which can’t be detected by the conventional test, but only a microscope test.
As such, Opiga revealed, the Ministry of Health intends to focus on the two vulnerable groups; mothers and children.
“In children, early diagnosis is important. We don’t have to wait for a lot of parasite load. Once diagnosed early, complicated cases like cerebral malaria, kidney disease or anaemia can be avoided,” he said.
Dr. Opiga also implored the public to employ malaria prevention measures and not wait for the infection to occur.
“Families should prevent malaria by sleeping under a treated mosquito and devise measures of eliminating mosquitoes from their homesteads,” he concluded.