Background: The etiology and optimal clinical management of acute febrile illness (AFI) is poorly understood.
Methods: Blood samples taken from study participants with acute fever (≥37.5°C) or a history of fever and recruited into the previous Typhoid-Fever-Surveillance-in-Africa (TSAP) study were evaluated using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based TaqMan-Array Card designed to detect a panel of bacterial, viral and parasitic pathogens. Clinical metadata were also assessed.
Results: A total of 615 blood samples available for analysis originated from Burkina Faso (n=53), Madagascar (n=364) and Sudan (n=198) and were taken from participants ranging from 0-19 years of age. Most individuals [86.4% (531/615)] presenting at healthcare facilities were outpatient adolescents (11-19 years-old). Leading clinical diagnoses were respiratory tract infections [45.9% (282/615)], malaria [27.3% (168/615)], and gastrointestinal tract infections [10.7% (66/615)]. Through the TaqMan-Array Card, at least one pathogen was detected in 62% (33/53), 24% (86/364), and 60% (118/198) of specimens, from Burkina Faso, Madagascar and Sudan, respectively. The leading identified pathogen overall was Plasmodium spp., accounting for 47% (25/53), 2.2% (8/364) and 45% (90/198) of AFI at respective sites. In Madagascar, dengue virus was the most prevalent pathogen (10.2%). Overall, 69% (357/516) of patients with clinical diagnoses of malaria, respiratory, or gastrointestinal infections were prescribed a WHO-guideline-recommended empiric antibiotic,whereas only 45% (106/237) of patients with pathogens detected were treated with an antibiotic exerting likely activity.
Conclusions: A PCR-approach for identifying multiple bacterial, viral and parasitic pathogens in whole blood unveiled a diversity of previously undetected pathogens in AFI cases and carries implications for the appropriate management of this common syndrome.
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