Community-based COVID-19 active case finding and rapid response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Improving case detection and response.

Otshudiema JO Folefack GLT Nsio JM Kakema CH Minikulu L Bafuana A Kosianza JB Mfumu AK Nkwembe E Munyeku-Bazitama Y Makiala-Mandanda S Guinko N Mbuyi G Tshilumbu JK Saidi GN Umba-di-Masiala MS Ebondo AK Mutonj JJ Kalombo S Kabeya J Mawanda TK Bile FN Kasereka GK Mbala-Kingebeni P Ahuka-Mundeke S Karamagi HC Fai KN Djiguimde AP
PloS one 2023 ; 18(5); . doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278251. Epub 2023 05 18


A community-based coronavirus disease (COVID-19) active case-finding strategy using an antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic test (Ag-RDT) was implemented in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to enhance COVID-19 case detection. With this pilot community-based active case finding and response program that was designed as a clinical, prospective testing performance, and implementation study, we aimed to identify insights to improve community diagnosis and rapid response to COVID-19. This pilot study was modeled on the DRC's National COVID-19 Response Plan and the COVID-19 Ag-RDT screening algorithm defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), with case findings implemented in 259 health areas, 39 health zones, and 9 provinces. In each health area, a 7-member interdisciplinary field team tested the close contacts (ring strategy) and applied preventive and control measures to each confirmed case. The COVID-19 testing capacity increased from 0.3 tests per 10,000 inhabitants per week in the first wave to 0.4, 1.6, and 2.2 in the second, third, and fourth waves, respectively. From January to November 2021, this capacity increase contributed to an average of 10.5% of COVID-19 tests in the DRC, with 7,110 positive Ag-RDT results for 40,226 suspected cases and close contacts who were tested (53.6% female, median age: 37 years [interquartile range: 26.0-50.0)]. Overall, 79.7% (n = 32,071) of the participants were symptomatic and 7.6% (n = 3,073) had comorbidities. The Ag-RDT sensitivity and specificity were 55.5% and 99.0%, respectively, based on reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis, and there was substantial agreement between the tests (k = 0.63). Despite its limited sensitivity, the Ag-RDT has improved COVID-19 testing capacity, enabling earlier detection, isolation, and treatment of COVID-19 cases. Our findings support the community testing of suspected cases and asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases to reduce disease spread and virus transmission.

Copyright: © 2023 Otshudiema et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.