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Jonathan Parr, MD

A major tool against malaria in Africa has been the use of rapid diagnostic tests, which have been part of the “test-treat-track” strategy in Ethiopia, the second most-populated country in Africa. But researchers studying blood samples from more than 12,000 individuals in Ethiopia now estimate these tests missed nearly 10% of malaria cases caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the most common cause of malaria cases and deaths.

The research, published in Nature Microbiology, showed that two genetic mutations to the parasite allow it to escape detection.

“This is a serious problem for malaria control efforts and a reminder that pathogens are very capable of adapting to survive,” said senior author Jonathan B. Parr, MD, assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the UNC School of Medicine. “Surveillance across the Horn of Africa and alternative malaria diagnostic approaches in affected regions are urgently needed.”

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