Kenyans with non-symptomatic malaria can now be tested for the disease with a newly developed tool.
Previously, people would spread the disease because they had the parasite but did not show any symptoms.
A US firm has launched a molecular-based, field laboratory deployed test kit that is claimed to be much more sensitive at detecting the parasite than current testing tools.
The test is particularly effective for the hard to detect latent malaria, a continuing infection without clinical symptoms, resulting from a balance established between the parasite and the body’s immune system.
The test was developed by with the technical assistance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Senegal.
“Illumigene Malaria has the potential to change current practices. Faster and more accurate diagnosis is vital in the fight against malaria,” Prof Daouda Ndiaye, from the department of parasitology at the university, said.
“And because detecting the malaria parasite in people with a low parasite count has proven difficult, a robust, sensitive and field laboratory deployable diagnostic tool is needed to track the malaria reservoir in pre-elimination regions.”
The disease kills about 16,000 Kenyan children every year.
Despite a 60 per cent decline in malaria deaths since 2000 because of better prevention and increased control measures, malaria is still one of the top three killers of children worldwide, claiming one life every minute.
Molecular testing is more effective than current options in detecting the malaria parasite at very low levels, known as loads.
Identifying low-load individuals has the dual benefit of ensuring they receive treatment and prevent the spread of the disease to others.
“People can be carriers of malaria without showing any symptoms, and detecting these asymptomatic individuals can be challenging,” Slava Elagin, the executive vice president of research at Meridian Bioscience said.
“If testing doesn’t identify them, eliminating malaria is impossible.”
Meridian Bioscience Inc is an international producer and distributor of a range of diagnostic test kits.