Point of care tests for invasive fungal infections: a blueprint for increasing availability in Africa
Ther Adv Infect Dis. 2021 Aug 16;8:20499361211034266. doi: 10.1177/20499361211034266. eCollection 2021 Jan-Dec.
Invasive fungal infections (IFIs) such as cryptococcosis, disseminated histoplasmosis, and chronic pulmonary aspergillosis are significant causes of morbidity and mortality in Africa. Lack of laboratory infrastructure and laboratory personnel trained in diagnostic mycology hamper prompt detection and management of IFIs on the continent. Point-of-care tests (POCT) obviate the need for complex infrastructure, skilled technicians, and stable electricity and have had major impacts on the diagnosis of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections in low- and middle-income countries. Over the last 10 years, POCTs for IFIs have become increasingly available and they have the potential to revolutionize the management of these infections if scaled up in Africa. At the beginning of 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Diagnostic List (EDL) included a cryptococcal antigen test for the diagnosis of cryptococcosis, Histoplasma antigen test for the diagnosis of disseminated histoplasmosis, and Aspergillus-specific test for the diagnosis of chronic pulmonary aspergillosis. All of these are available in formats that may be used as POCTs and it is hoped that this will improve the diagnosis of these life-threatening IFIs, especially in low- and middle-income countries. This perspective review discusses commercially available POCTs and outlines strategies of a blueprint to achieve their roll-out in Africa. The strategies include raising awareness, conducting research that uncovers the exact burden of IFIs, increasing advocacy, integrating diagnosis of IFIs into existing public health programs, adoption of the WHO EDL at country levels, and improving logistics and supply chains.