Passive screening and diagnosis of sleeping sickness with new tools in primary health services: an operational research

Philippe Mulenga Cilundika, Pascal Lutumba, Yves Coppieters, Alain Mpanya, Eric Mwamba-Miaka, Oscar Luboya, Faustin Chenge

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    Introduction: The integration of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) activities into primary health services is gaining importance as a result of the decreasing incidence of HAT and the ongoing developments of new screening and diagnostic tools. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, this integration process faces multiple challenges. We initiated an operational research project to document drivers and bottlenecks of the process. 

    Methods: Three health districts piloted the integration of HAT screening and diagnosis into primary health services. We analysed the outcome indicators of this intervention and conducted in-depth interviews with health care providers, seropositives, community health workers and HD management team members. Our thematic interview guide focused on factors facilitating and impeding the integration of HAT screening. 

    Results: The study showed a HAT-RDT-positive rate of 2.2% in Yasa Bonga, 2.9% in Kongolo and 3% in Bibanga, while the proportion of reported seropositives that received confirmatory examinations was 76%, 45.6% and 68%, respectively. Qualitative analyses indicated that some seropositives were unable to access the confirmation facility. The main reasons that were given included distance, RDT rupture, lack of basic screening equipment and financial barriers (additional hospital fees not included in free treatment course), fear of lumbar puncture and the perception of HAT as a disease of supernatural origin. 

    Conclusion: Passive screening using HAT RDTs in primary health services inevitably has some limitations. However, regarding the epidemiological context and some obstacles to integrated implementation, this cannot on its own be a relevant alternative to the elimination of HAT by 2020. 

    Funding: We acknowledge the agency that provided financial support for this study, the Belgian Development Cooperation. The funder had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. Philippe Mulenga received financial support thanks to a doctoral grant from the Belgian Development Cooperation under the FA4 agreement. Funding for the study and Rapid Service Fees was provided by the Epidemiology and Tropical Diseases Unit of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInfectious Diseases and Therapy
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)353-367
    Number of pages15
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Diagnosis
    • Human African trypanosomiasis
    • Integration
    • Operational research
    • Passive screening
    • Primary health services
    • Sleeping sickness


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