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24 May 2017, Bangkok – This April and May, the targeted malaria elimination (TME) study in Laos’ final prevalence survey evaluated new tools to detect asymptomatic malaria. These included new rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) that may be similar in sensitivity to a PCR performed on dried blood spots and reading machines that fire a laser at RDTs and use a thermal camera to detect faint positive results that would be beyond the range of the human eye.

Composite image of researchers in a lab and in the field

Developed by Intellectual Ventures Laboratory with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation via Global Good, both are potential new malaria elimination tools as they could identify rapidly the asymptomatic reservoir of falciparum infections. Results are expected late summer 2017 comparing the new RDTs and readers to a gold standard method of malaria detection, the quantitative PCR results from Mallika Imwong’s molecular laboratory at MORU.

A team led by LOMWRU scientists Mayfong Mayxay and Koukeo Phommasone (bottom right), Tiengkham Pongvongsa (bottom centre), head of malaria control in Savannakhet Province, and WWARN’s Mehul Dhorda and MORU’s Lorenz von Seidlein and Tom Peto hosted Kevin Nichols and Stephen Burkhor (top left) of Intellectual Ventures Laboratory (IVL) to field test the tools.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the MORU TME project seeks to accelerate malaria elimination by providing mass drug administrations (MDA) to communities that have relatively high P. falciparum prevalence, access to village health malaria workers and where every household has one or more long lasting insecticide treated bed nets. The TME project operates in four Greater Mekong Subregion countries: Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam.

In Laos, the TME project focuses on rural villages in Savannakhet province, which has the third highest malaria incidence in Lao PDR. A survey conducted in 18 rural villages in Savannakhet in 2015 using uPCR detected Plasmodium infections in 175 of 888 samples (20%). Most villages in Savannakhet are relatively accessible and malaria elimination has a high priority for the local government. LOMWRU’s Dr Mayfong Mayxay is the principal investigator (PI) for the Lao PDR study, while Dr Koukeo Phommasone is the field site PI.

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