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How to interpret malaria tests
  1. Emma Dyer1,
  2. Thomas Waterfield2,
  3. Michael Eisenhut1
  1. 1Luton and Dunstable Hospital, Luton, UK
  2. 2Department of Emergency Medicine, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas Waterfield, Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children 180-184 Falls Rd, Belfast, County Antrim BT12 6BE, UK; Thomas.waterfield{at}


There are over 300 new cases of imported paediatric malaria in the UK each year and this has been increasing over the last 20 years. Malaria in children is particularly difficult to diagnose because the initial presenting features are subtler than in adults and do not display the classical presenting features. However, they are also more likely to deteriorate rapidly and to develop severe malaria. The ‘gold standard’ for ruling out the diagnosis of malaria if clinically suspected is three negative thin and thick blood films, which require serial phlebotomy and the availability of trained technicians. There are now a range of other tests, including rapid diagnostic tests and PCR, as well as clinical features that make the diagnosis more or less likely. We explore the different tests available and whether these might replace the three negative blood films currently needed. We also look at whether we are able to use clinical features to aid the tests used for a diagnosis of imported malaria.

  • General Paediatrics
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology
  • Tropical Inf Dis
  • malaria

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