Cost of a new method of active screening for human African trypanosomiasis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Rian Snijders, Alain Fukinsia, Yves Claeys, Alain Mpanya, Epco Hasker, Filip Meheus, Erick Miaka, Marleen Boelaert

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Author summary

Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) used to be a major public health problem in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the disease is becoming less frequent as a result of sustained control efforts. Currently, the elimination of sleeping sickness as a public health problem is targeted for 2020 and eradication or interruption of transmission for 2030. To achieve these targets, a commitment of at least 10 years towards HAT control activities will be necessary with innovative disease control approaches accompanied by economic evaluations to assess their cost and cost-effectiveness in the changing context. Today, active case finding via mass outreach campaigns accounts for approximately half of all identified cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, this strategy has become less efficient, with a dwindling "yield" in terms of the number of identified cases, translating to a higher cost per diagnosed HAT case. Therefore, different approaches to outreach campaigns need to be evaluated with a focus on reaching populations at risk for HAT.

This article presents the costs and outcomes of two approaches to active screening: traditional mobile teams and mini mobile teams.

This study shows that mini mobile teams could be a cost-effective alternative for active screening with a cost-per-person screened of US$1.86 compared to US$2.08. Improved efficiency could increase the screening coverage of populations at risk for HAT that are currently not being reached through the traditional approach. Future research is needed to evaluate the difference in HAT cases identified and treated by both approaches.


Human African trypanosomiases caused by the Trypanosoma brucei gambiense parasite is a lethal disease targeted for eradication. One of the main disease control strategies is active case-finding through outreach campaigns. In 2014, a new method for active screening was developed with mini, motorcycle-based, teams. This study compares the cost of two active case-finding approaches, namely the traditional mobile teams and mini mobile teams, in the two health districts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The financial and economic costs of both approaches were estimated from a health care provider perspective. Cost and operational data were collected for 12 months for 1 traditional team and 3 mini teams. The cost per person screened and diagnosed was calculated and univariate sensitivity analysis was conducted to identify the main cost drivers.


During the study period in total 264,630 people were screened, and 23 HAT cases detected. The cost per person screened was lower for a mini team than for a traditional team in the study setting (US$1.86 versus US$2.08). A comparable result was found in a scenario analysis, assuming both teams would operate in a similar setting, with the cost per person screened by a mini team 15% lower than the cost per person screened by a traditional team (1.86 $ vs 2.14$). The main explanations for this lower cost are that mini teams work with fewer human resources, cheaper means of transportation and do not perform the Capillary Tube Centrifugation test or card agglutination test dilutions.


Active HAT screening with mini mobile teams has a lower cost and could be a cost-effective alternative for active case-finding. Further research is needed to determine if mini mobile teams have similar or better yields than traditional mobile teams in terms of detections and cases successfully treated.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0008832
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number12
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2020




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