COVID-19 and malaria in sub-saharan Africa: Holistic diagnostic approaches may promote effective clinical case management

Document Type : Mini-review article


1 Department of Biology and Biotechnology, University of Pavia, Lombardy, Italy

2 Department of Microbiology, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria

3 Infectious Diseases Research Group, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Brisbane, Australia


Since the start of 2020 the rapidly escalating number of deaths from confirmed cases of Coronavirus disease (COVID)-19 has become a major global public health concern. With the existing significant burden that malaria poses in sub-Saharan Africa, it is clear that in this low-income region the cumulative effects of SARS-CoV-2 and Plasmodium infections will devastate already fragile national economies. In turn, this will have a severely deleterious impact on under-resourced, overstretched and overwhelmed health care systems. The similarities in the clinical signs and symptoms of these two febrile diseases and the availability of very few COVID-19 molecular diagnostic centres might contribute significantly to the difficulties experienced in the sustainable management of these twin public health threats. Here, decentralization of validated rapid diagnostic kits for parallel testing of suspected cases of COVID-19 and malaria in health care centres is described. We argue that for both urban populations and underserved rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa the use of malaria and COVID-19 rapid tests as a dual holistic diagnostic approach in patient care settings may promote more effective control and facilitate appropriate treatment of each disease.


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