Check-list recommended to improve reporting of microscopy methods and results in malaria studies

A study to explore the variations of how microscopy methods are reported in published malaria studies has recommended standardised procedures should be implemented for methodological consistency and comparability of clinical trial outcomes.

A researcher working in the lab. Photo credit:Trinn Suwannapha, WorldBank

The paper, A systematic literature review of microscopy methods reported in malaria clinical trials has been published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Using the WWARN clinical trials publication library, an open-access, up-to-date database of malaria treatment efficacy trials, the systematic review's authors looked at 206 malaria studies, published between 2013 and 2017, analysing the differences in microscopic procedures adopted in malaria clinical trials in terms of slide staining, parasite density estimation, the method to declare a slide negative, and quality control procedures. It found there was no standard reporting procedure; and highlighted how this observed variability might lead to considerable differences in malaria diagnosis and parasite density estimation.

Microscopy of stained blood films is essential for the diagnosis of malaria, differentiation of parasite species, and estimation of parasite density performed for assessments of antimalarial drug efficacy. The accuracy and comparability of these measures are vital to detect the emergence or spread of antimalarial drug resistance.

In conclusion, the paper's authors recommended the use and dissemination of the guidelines and manuals for malaria microscopy methods in research settings, developed under the umbrella of the World Health Organization (WHO) and TDR, to reduce methodological variations. Researchers should include an evidence-based checklist for reporting microscopy methods and results in malaria study publications.

Read the full paper A systematic literature review of microscopy methods reported in malaria clinical trials.