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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the accuracy of routine malaria microscopy, and appropriate use and interpretation of malaria slides under operational conditions in Kenya. METHODS: Cross-sectional survey, using a range of quality of care assessment tools, at government facilities with malaria microscopy in two Kenyan districts of different intensity of malaria transmission. All patients older than 5 years presenting to outpatient departments were enrolled. Two expert microscopists assessed the accuracy of the routine malaria slide results. RESULTS: We analysed 359 consultations performed by 31 clinicians at 17 facilities. Clinical assessment was suboptimal. Blood slide microscopy was performed for 72.7% of patients, who represented 78.5% of febrile patients and 51.3% of afebrile patients. About 95.5% of patients with a positive malaria microscopy result and 79.3% of patients with a negative result received antimalarial treatment. Sulphadoxine-pyremethamine monotherapy was more commonly prescribed for patients with a negative test result (60.7%) than for patients with a positive result (32.4%). Conversely, amodiaquine or quinine were prescribed for only 14.7% of patients with a negative malaria microscopy result compared to 57.7% of patients with a positive result. The prevalence of confirmed malaria was low in both high (10.0%) and low-(16.3%) transmission settings. Combining data from both settings, the sensitivity of routine microscopy was 68.6%; its specificity, 61.5%; its positive predictive value, 21.6% and its negative predictive value, 92.7%. CONCLUSIONS: The potential benefits of microscopy are currently not realised because of the poor quality of routine testing and irrational clinical practices. Ambiguous clinical guidelines permitting treatment of older children and adults with a negative blood slide also undermine rational use of antimalarial drugs.

Original publication




Journal article


Trop Med Int Health

Publication Date





432 - 440


Adolescent, Adult, Ambulatory Care, Amodiaquine, Antimalarials, Case Management, Child, Cross-Sectional Studies, Drug Combinations, Humans, Kenya, Malaria, Falciparum, Microscopy, Parasitemia, Population Surveillance, Prevalence, Pyrimethamine, Quinine, Sensitivity and Specificity, Sulfadoxine