BACKGROUND: Congenital malaria, defined as the presence of asexual forms of malaria parasites in the peripheral blood during the first 7 days of life, remains a neglected area of research. Knowledge gaps exist about prevalence and management of malaria in this age group. The objective of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of congenital malaria and the validity of a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) for its diagnosis in rural Burundi.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a meso-endemic malaria context in Burundi among 290 mothers, and their newborns (n = 303), who delivered at the maternity departments of Kirundo and Mukenke Hospitals during March and April 2014. Peripheral blood samples were collected from all mothers/newborns pairs in order to examine the presence of malaria parasites with two RDT (SD-Bioline HRP2 and Carestart pan-pLDH) and a blood slide. In addition, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed from the newborn peripheral sample. Frequencies and proportions were calculated for categorical variables. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated with a 95 % confidence interval (CI).
RESULTS: None of the newborns were found positive by PCR (0/303; 95 % CI 0.0-1.3). The prevalence in newborns born from microscopy-positive mothers was 0 % (0/44; 95 % CI 0.0-8.0). Two newborns were positive with SD-Bioline HRP2 (0.7 %, 95 % CI 0.2-2.4) but none with Carestart pan-pLDH or microscopy. Sensitivity of the diagnostic tests could not be evaluated as no congenital malaria was detected. Specificity of SD-Bioline HRP2, Carestart pan-pLDH and microscopy to detect congenital malaria was 99.3 % (95 % CI 97.6-99.8), 100.0 % (95 % CI 98.3-100.0) and 100.0 % (95 % CI 98.8-100.0), respectively.
CONCLUSION: In Burundi or the Central African region, no recent prevalence studies for congenital malaria have been carried out. This study found that the prevalence of congenital malaria in two hospitals in Kirundo province is zero. RDT showed to have an excellent specificity and, therefore, can be used to rule out congenital malaria: the risk of overtreatment is low. However, as no cases of congenital malaria were detected, the study was not able to draw conclusions about the sensitivity of the RDT, nor about risk factors for congenital malaria. Further studies evaluating the sensitivity of RDT for diagnosis of congenital malaria are needed.