The assessment was conducted by the Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute (ADFMIDI), with support from the Central Public Health Laboratory.
Held from 10 to 14 June in Port Moresby, the week-long External Competence Assessment of Malaria Microscopists is WHO endorsed to ensure a high standard of malaria diagnosis using a microscope in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Participants came from nine provinces across the country, with all gaining competence levels, which are valid for three years.
Debra Ruffunduo, 29, from West Sepik Provincial Hospital, was the youngest and top performing participant during the course. Certified as a level one microscopist, the highest-ranking level, she may now provide training and supervision to other malaria microscopists to support the National Malaria Control Program.
“I’m excited to go back and train other microscopists in my hospital, as I’ve been so privileged to have attended the course, and be assessed and certified,” said Ruffunduo.
According to a recent WHO report, PNG accounted for more than 80 percent of confirmed malaria cases in the Western Pacific Region in 2017. While rapid diagnostic tests on human blood are becoming more widely used and accepted in PNG, microscopy is still heavily relied upon for diagnosis of the species and how heavy the infection is.
Lieutenant Colonel Ken Lilley from the ADFMIDI has been facilitating training and assessments in PNG and around the world for over 30 years as part of a global strategy to strengthen laboratory capacity.
“Participants have learned how to detect and identify malaria parasite characteristics in blood samples under a microscope, which is needed for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment,” said Lilley.
“The course covers all aspects of malaria microscopy based on standardised instruction for new laboratory technicians and a refresher for previously certified technicians.”
The assessment course was supported by the Governments of Australia, China and PNG through the Trilateral Malaria Project. Two assessments are supported each year through the project, and the next one will be in November 2019.
(Debra Ruffunduo from West Sepik Provincial Hospital was the youngest and top performing participant at the WHO certified malaria microscopy course)