An expert in the development of diagnostic tests is laying the foundation for improved clinical management and fewer deaths of children suffering from malaria and/or bacterial bloodstream infections in Africa.

Both conditions are widespread and share similar symptoms, including high fever. Children admitted to an African hospital with fever can generally only be tested for malaria as there is no microbiology lab available to test for bacterial infections. Failure to identify bacterial bloodstream infections results in preventable deaths in young children, as well as inappropriate use of available antibiotics.

Saskia Decuypere, a UWA Adjunct and researcher with the Telethon Kids Institute, Perth, has been working with Burkina Faso’s paediatric ward of St Camille Hospital in the Nanoro Health District, and the Clinical Research Unit of Nanoro, to develop a low-cost, rapid diagnostic test that can be applied at the patient’s bedside. It is designed to determine there and then whether a child is suffering from malaria, a bacterial infection, or both.

Once finalised and implemented, the rapid diagnostic test will provide a powerful tool for medical staff: they will be able to prescribe more targeted treatment (tailored to the patient’s condition) and arrange quick referrals – where necessary- to the nearest medical post equipped to deal with the particular condition.

This initiative contributes to building a stronger global health focus for childhood infectious diseases – one of the stated aims of the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at the Telethon Kids Institute.

Photo: Saskia Decuypere ©