Malaria rapid diagnostic tests: Literary review and recommendation for a quality assurance, quality control algorithm

Michael J. Kavanaugh*, Steven E. Azzam, David M. Rockabrand

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) have had an enormous global impact which contributed to the World Health Organization paradigm shift from empiric treatment to obtaining a parasitological diagnosis prior to treatment. Microscopy, the classic standard, requires significant expertise, equipment, electricity, and reagents. Alternatively, RDT’s lower complexity allows utilization in austere environments while achieving similar sensitivities and specificities. Worldwide, there are over 200 different RDT brands that utilize three antigens: Plasmodium histidine-rich protein 2 (PfHRP-2), Plasmodium lactate dehydrogenase (pLDH), and Plasmodium aldolase (pALDO). pfHRP2 is produced exclusively by Plasmodium falciparum and is very Pf sensitive, but an alternative antigen or antigen combination is required for regions like Asia with significant Plasmodium vivax prevalence. RDT sensitivity also decreases with low parasitemia (<100 parasites/uL), genetic variability, and prozone effect. Thus, proper RDT selection and understanding of test limitations are essential. The Center for Disease Control recommends confirming RDT results by microscopy, but this is challenging, due to the utilization of clinical laboratory standards, like the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and the Clinical Lab Improvement Act (CLIA), and limited recourses. Our focus is to provide quality assurance and quality control strategies for resource-constrained environments and provide education on RDT limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number768
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical lab improvement act
  • Clinical laboratory standards
  • College of american pathologists
  • Malaria rapid diagnostic test (RDT)
  • Plasmodium histidine-rich protein (HRP)


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