Poor specificity may negatively impact rapid diagnostic test (RDT)-based diagnostic strategies for malaria. We performed real-time PCR on a subset of subjects who had undergone diagnostic testing with a multiple-antigen (histidine-rich protein 2 and -lactate dehydrogenase pLDH [HRP2/pLDH]) RDT and microscopy. We determined the sensitivity and specificity of the RDT in comparison to results of PCR for the detection of malaria. We developed and evaluated a two-step algorithm utilizing the multiple-antigen RDT to screen patients, followed by confirmatory microscopy for those individuals with HRP2-positive (HRP2)/pLDH-negative (pLDH) results. In total, dried blood spots (DBS) were collected from 276 individuals. There were 124 (44.9%) individuals with an HRP2/pLDH result, 94 (34.1%) with an HRP2/pLDH result, and 58 (21%) with a negative RDT result. The sensitivity and specificity of the RDT compared to results with real-time PCR were 99.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 95.9 to 100.0%) and 46.7% (95% CI, 37.7 to 55.9%), respectively. Of the 94 HRP2/pLDH results, only 32 (34.0%) and 35 (37.2%) were positive by microscopy and PCR, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of the two-step algorithm compared to results with real-time PCR were 95.5% (95% CI, 90.5 to 98.0%) and 91.0% (95% CI, 84.1 to 95.2), respectively. HRP2 antigen bands demonstrated poor specificity for the diagnosis of malaria compared to that of real-time PCR in a high-transmission setting. The most likely explanation for this finding is the persistence of HRP2 antigenemia following treatment of an acute infection. The two-step diagnostic algorithm utilizing microscopy as a confirmatory test for indeterminate HRP2/pLDH results showed significantly improved specificity with little loss of sensitivity in a high-transmission setting.
Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.