A study published on Friday in The Lancet Global Health showed countries where malaria is endemic should rollout malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) at the same time new training programs are integrated into the medical care system.
Researchers at the Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy Consortium in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studied the use of RDTs combined with basic and comprehensive training programs in Cameroon. Results showed 31 percent of patients attended by clinicians who took the comprehensive training received a malaria drug they didn't need.
The clinicians who took the basic training course gave 52 percent of their patients medication they didn't need. A control group representing standard procedures showed 84 percent of patients received medication they didn't need.
"If we are serious about improving the targeting of malaria medicines by using RDTs, then there needs to be a far greater focus on behaviour change," Lead Study Author Virginia Wiseman said. "This study, the first of its kind in Cameroon, highlights that health workers not only need training to diagnose and treat malaria, but most of all need the confidence to put what they learn into practice and to communicate more effectively with patients about why they are tested and that fever is not always caused by malaria. Our results suggest that a good training program designed to translate knowledge into practice could dramatically reduce over-diagnosis of malaria in Cameroon and prevent the wastage of valuable medicines."
The World Health Organization recommends that patients be tested for malaria before receiving medication, but the illness is traditionally diagnosed based on symptoms.