Low-tech coolers for storing malaria rapid diagnostic tests in remote areas

Rapid diagnostic tests for malaria (and other diseases) can extend diagnosis to remote areas. This is sorely needed. Beyond benefits against the disease at hand, the introduction of diagnostics along with associated systems of quality assurance can strengthen the overall health system (previously discussed here). A major barrier for expanding the use of rapid tests is a short-shelf life under field conditions. Tropical temperature and humidity degrade such diagnostics, which use delicate reagents like antibodies, in a matter of months. The short shelf life can necessitate restocking at a frequency which may not be logistically feasible. Thus, routine operation in many countries leads to the use of compromised, or a complete wastage of, tests.

Cambodia has a solution. The National Malaria Program designed ‘cooler boxes’ using the simple technology of evaporative cooling.They tested the boxes and their ability to maintain temperature, humidity, and extend the usability of malaria tests. RDTs in ambient conditions tested negative on control blood at 210 days while RDTs kept in the cooler box provided positive results up to 360 days. I love this story. First, it tackles a small but immediate need in current operations. Second, the cooler boxes were developed by Cambodia for use in their own programs. Third, they rigorously tested it – with the help of some WHO support (David Bell has been relentlessly working to advance all things rapid diagnosis). It is a judicious use of aid reminiscent of a past WHO where more funds were spent on research, small victories, and demonstration projects.


2 Responses to “Low-tech coolers for storing malaria rapid diagnostic tests in remote areas”

  1. 1 Jessica Lin November 7, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    hey Naman, Chanthap would love to know that you had read about his work. He’s very proud of this invention. He’s a really dedicated field investigator, works for Afrims now.

  2. 2 naman November 7, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    hah, that’s great. Send him this link and tell him I am a fan!

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