Diagnostic Technologies

Rapid Diagnostic Tests for low-resource settings

Rapid Diagnostics in the field

Photo: PATH/Gena Morgan.

An overview

Many developing countries face serious challenges in accurately identifying and diagnosing infectious disease due to challenges in remote, rural, or low-resource settings. For many years, PATH has focused on advancing simple, low-cost tests and devices to improve diagnosis of diseases at the point of care.

The following information on rapid diagnostic tests for low-resource settings was developed for public health program managers and decision-makers working in developing countries or other low-resource settings and is designed to provide accurate information on rapid diagnostic tests. Please note that this web site is not affiliated with a diagnostic product or manufacturer. Our aim is to share information on rapid diagnostic tests.

The ability to provide test results to the patient rapidly is one of the most important properties that make rapid diagnostic tests useful in low-resource settings, as many patients are not able to return to health centers to receive their test results. Tests with results available in minutes, or at most an hour or two, are best. For optimal use in low-resource settings, it is also important for tests to be: accurate; simple to use—i.e., require little in the way of facilities, equipment, or training; low-cost or cost-effective; easily interpreted; and stable when stored in extreme conditions. Ideal tests also use samples that require little or no processing and are culturally acceptable.