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Field evaluation of validity and feasibility of Pan-Lassa rapid diagnostic test for Lassa fever in Abakaliki, Nigeria: a prospective diagnostic accuracy study.

BACKGROUND: Lassa fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever with few options for diagnosis and treatment; it is also under-researched with knowledge gaps on its epidemiology. A point-of-care bedside test diagnosing Lassa fever, adhering to REASSURED criteria, is not currently available but is urgently needed in west African regions with high Lassa fever burden. We aimed to assess the validity and feasibility of a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) to confirm Lassa fever in people in Nigeria.

METHODS: We estimated the diagnostic performance of the ReLASV Pan-Lassa RDT (Zalgen Labs, Frederick, MD, USA) as a research-use-only test, compared to RT-PCR as a reference standard, in 217 participants at a federal tertiary hospital in Abakaliki, Nigeria. We recruited participants between Feb 17, 2022, and April 17, 2023. The RDT was performed using capillary blood at the patient bedside and using plasma at the laboratory. The performance of the test, based on REASSURED criteria, was assessed for user friendliness, rapidity and robustness, sensitivity, and specificity.

FINDINGS: Participants were aged between 0 and 85 years, with a median age of 33·0 years (IQR 22·0-44·3), and 24 participants were younger than 18 years. 107 (50%) participants were women and 109 (50%) were men; one participant had missing sex data. Although the specificity of the Pan-Lassa RDT was high (>90%), sensitivity at bedside using capillary blood was estimated as 4% (95% CI 1-14) at 15 min and 10% (3-22) at 25 min, far below the target of 90%. The laboratory-based RDT using plasma showed better sensitivity (46% [32-61] at 15 min and 50% [36-64] at 25 min) but did not reach the target sensitivity. Among the 52 PCR-positive participants with Lassa fever, positive RDT results were associated with lower cycle threshold values (glycoprotein precursor [GPC] gene mean 30·3 [SD 4·3], Large [L] gene mean 32·3 [3·7] vs GPC gene mean 24·5 [3·9], L gene mean 28·0 [3·6]). Personnel conducting the bedside test procedure reported being hindered by the inconvenient use of full personal protective equipment and long waiting procedures before a result could be read.

INTERPRETATION: The Pan-Lassa RDT is not currently recommended as a diagnostic or screening tool for suspected Lassa fever cases. Marked improvement in sensitivity and user friendliness is needed for the RDT to be adopted clinically. There remains an urgent need for better Lassa fever diagnostics to promote safety of in-hospital care and better disease outcomes in low-resource settings.

FUNDING: Médecins Sans Frontières.

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