The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1475-2875-11-89) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
TF and MHD conceived and designed the study, and coordinated study execution. TF wrote the first draft of the paper, prepared tables and figures, and contributed in training health workers. JG, AM, IO and MLI supervised fieldwork. AM, IA and JG also supervised laboratory work and participated in analysing the data; they also contributed in training health workers. RLZ and IO contributed in managing and analysing the data. HZ anf BB contributed in data collection and provided a logistical support. FG did the geospatial information analysis. RL contributed in reviewing the study procedure. SM and AM reviewed the design of the study and the report drafts. All authors have contributed to finalizing the article. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
The health authorities of Niger have implemented several malaria prevention and control programmes in recent years. These interventions broadly follow WHO guidelines and international recommendations and are based on interventions that have proved successful in other parts of Africa. Most performance indicators are satisfactory but, paradoxically, despite the mobilization of considerable human and financial resources, the malaria-fighting programme in Niger seems to have stalled, as it has not yet yielded the expected significant decrease in malaria burden. Indeed, the number of malaria cases reported by the National Health Information System has actually increased by a factor of five over the last decade, from about 600,000 in 2000 to about 3,000,000 in 2010. One of the weaknesses of the national reporting system is that the recording of malaria cases is still based on a presumptive diagnosis approach, which overestimates malaria incidence.
An extensive nationwide survey was carried out to determine by microscopy and RDT testing, the proportion of febrile patients consulting at health facilities for suspected malaria actually suffering from the disease, as a means of assessing the magnitude of this problem and obtaining a better estimate of malaria morbidity in Niger.
In total, 12,576 febrile patients were included in this study; 57% of the slides analysed were positive for the malaria parasite during the rainy season, when transmission rates are high, and 9% of the slides analysed were positive during the dry season, when transmission rates are lower. The replacement of microscopy methods by rapid diagnostic tests resulted in an even lower rate of confirmation, with only 42% of cases testing positive during the rainy season, and 4% during the dry season. Fever alone has a low predictive value, with a low specificity and sensitivity. These data highlight the absolute necessity of confirming all reported malaria cases by biological diagnosis methods, to increase the accuracy of the malaria indicators used in monitoring and evaluation processes and to improve patient care in the more remote areas of Niger. This country extends over a large range of latitudes, resulting in the existence of three major bioclimatic zones determining vector distribution and endemicity.
This survey showed that the number of cases of presumed malaria reported in health centres in Niger is largely overestimated. The results highlight inadequacies in the description of the malaria situation and disease risk in Niger, due to the over-diagnosis of malaria in patients with simple febrile illness. They point out the necessity of confirming all cases of suspected malaria by biological diagnosis methods and the need to take geographic constraints into account more effectively, to improve malaria control and to adapt the choice of diagnostic method to the epidemiological situation in the area concerned. Case confirmation will thus also require a change in behaviour, through the training of healthcare staff, the introduction of quality control, greater supervision of the integrated health centres, the implementation of good clinical practice and a general optimization of the use of available diagnostic methods.
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- A refined estimate of the malaria burden in Niger
Maimouna Halidou Doudou
Maman L Ibrahim
- BioMed Central
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