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New research by the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, explores the potential benefits of a presumptive lateral flow rapid diagnostic test in managing acute non-malarial febrile illness (NMFI) patient care in rural areas of Southeast Asia.

Dr Chris Chew and colleagues at a health centre in Bangladesh
Dr Chris Chew (extreme left) visiting one of the primary health centres in Bangladesh where this putative test is intended to be used.

In rural regions of Cambodia and Bangladesh, where access to advanced medical facilities is limited, diagnosing and treating acute non-malarial febrile illness can be challenging. The workforce skill sets relating to clinical diagnosis and management are variable, and there are numerous causes of non-malarial febrile illness, many of which present with non-specific symptoms.

A team of researchers from MORU aimed to address this issue by evaluating the cost-effectiveness of lateral flow rapid diagnostic tests. The study published in The Lancet Regional Health Southeast Asia found that this presumptive test (as yet undeveloped) could help diagnose patients presenting with fever in Cambodia and Bangladesh in a cost-effective manner.

The test could help reduce hospitalisations and deaths from certain illnesses, which is important. The study used a lot of data from the area and looked at how the test could help reduce the overuse of certain antibiotics. Overall, it suggests this new test be a good value in the right situations, which should encourage more research and possibly adjustments to make it even more effective and affordable.

Dr Christopher Chew, Clinical Researcher at MORU and the lead author of the study said: "Developing new diagnostic tests, especially when they are targeted at low- and middle-income countries where financial resources are limited, is high-risk. If a test is likely to be cost-effective, governments may be more inclined to support its purchase and implementation, creating a viable market for innovators to conduct research and development. This paper provides such crucial early economic evidence that policymakers, researchers, and industry can draw on to advance the development of an urgently-needed test for the two most important causes of fever in South and Southeast Asia, based on contemporary data from the largest study of fever in this region."

Read the publications 'Cost-effectiveness analysis of a multiplex lateral flow rapid diagnostic test for acute non-malarial febrile illness in rural Cambodia and Bangladesh' on The Lancet Regional Health Southeast Asia website.

The full story is available on the NDM website