CERMAL nurse Matsanga Stanie, patient visitation room for vitals and sample collection. Rapid tests (malaria)

Fever & Malaria

We are working to improve diagnosis of febrile illnesses to reduce deaths from fever and malaria.

600 million

cases of childhood fever each year

Everyone

who might have malaria should be tested before treatment

2030

is targeted for malaria elimination

Management of fever is complex because of overlapping symptoms from different diseases.

In Africa alone, children experience 600 million cases of fever each year. Health professionals in low- and middle-income countries generally do not have the diagnostic tools at their disposal to differentiate between febrile illnesses, making it challenging to manage childhood health.

In some countries – particularly in Africa – the cause of the fever is very often malaria. Malaria is ambitiously targeted for global elimination by 2030, but every year, hundreds of millions of new cases still occur, and hundreds of thousands of people die from the disease. Diagnostics underpin malaria elimination efforts, enabling people with and without symptoms to be treated appropriately. Distinguishing between the various species of malaria parasite responsible for the infection is increasingly important to guide differentiated treatment strategies, as new drugs that target specific parasites become available.

WHO recommends that all patients suspected of having malaria should be tested before receiving treatment. But when the test is negative, prescription of a broad-spectrum antibiotic is often the default course of action – even though the fever may be due to a virus, in which case the antibiotic will be ineffective. Taking inappropriate drugs is not only bad for patients, it can also contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance.

When a health professional is in front of a young child with a fever, they need to be able to tell immediately if that child needs urgent medical care for something life-threatening like malaria or severe dengue, or whether they just need antibiotics for a minor infection.

Cassandra Kelly-Cirino

Vice President, Programmes

Our strategy focuses on supporting development of new tools that can improve triage and differential diagnosis at the point of care, including next-generation malaria tests needed for disease elimination, alongside generating data to inform implementation and scale-up of new approaches to improve access to diagnosis of febrile illnesses (such as electronic clinical decision aids). We are also working with partners to improve surveillance to inform roll-out of vaccination campaigns for six vaccine-preventable diseases.