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Ann Clin Microbiol Antimicrob. 2018 Mar 15;17(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s12941-018-0261-1.

Quality control of malaria microscopy reveals misdiagnosed non-falciparum species and other microscopically detectable pathogens in Senegal.

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Laboratory of Parasitology and Mycology, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop, BP 5005 Fann, Dakar, Senegal.
Laboratory of Parasitology and Mycology, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop, BP 5005 Fann, Dakar, Senegal.
National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), Rue Aimé Césaire, Fann Résidence, Dakar, Senegal.



In developing countries, malaria diagnosis relies on microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests. In Senegal, national malaria control program (NMCP) regularly conducts supervisory visits in health services where malaria microscopy is performed. In this study, expert microscopists assessed the performance of laboratory technicians in malaria microscopy.


The present external quality assessment (EQA) was conducted in three different areas of malaria transmission. Participants were laboratory technicians previously trained by NMCP on malaria microscopy. Stored read slides were randomly collected for blinded re-checking by expert microscopists. At the same time a set of 8 slides (3 positive P. falciparum and 5 negative slides) were submitted to participants for proficiency testing. Microscopists performance were evaluated on the basis of the errors rates on slide reading-high false positive (HFP), high false negative (HFN), low false positive (LFP) and low false negative (LFN)-and the calculation of their sensitivities and specificities relative to expert microscopy. Data were entered and analysed using Microsoft Excel software.


A total of 450 stored slides were collected from 17 laboratories for re-checking. Eight laboratories scored 100% of correct reading. Only one major error was recorded (HFP). Six laboratories recorded LFN results: Borrelia, P. ovale, and low parasite densities (95 and 155 p/μl) were missed. Two P. falciparum slides were misidentified as P. malariae and one P. ovale slide as P. vivax. The overall sensitivities and specificities for all participants against expert microscopists were 97.8 and 98.2% respectively; Sensitivities and specificities of hospital microscopists (96.7 and 98.9%) were statistically similar to those of health centre microscopists (98.5 and 97.8% respectively) (p = 0.3993 and p = 0.9412 respectively). Overall, a very good agreement was noted with kappa value of 0.96 (CI95% 93.4-98.6%) relative to expert microscopy. Proficiency testing showed that among the 17 participants, 11 laboratories scored 100% of correct reading. Three LFN and four LFP results were recorded respectively. The P. falciparum slide with Maurer dots was misidentified as P. ovale in 1 centre and the same slide was misread as P. vivax in another centre; No major error (HFP or HFN) was noted.


EQA of malaria microscopy showed an overall good performance especially regarding P. falciparum detection. However, efforts need to be made addressing the ability to detect non-falciparum species and others endemic blood pathogens such as Borrelia. The further NMCP training sessions and evaluations should consider those aspects to expect high quality-assured capacity for malaria microscopy.


Diagnosis; EQA; External quality assessment; Malaria; Microscopy; Senegal

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