Laboratory Diagnosis of Selected Neglected Parasitic Diseases in the Philippines: Can we do better?

Vicente Y. Belizario, Jr.,1,2 Andrew O. Plan1 and Winifreda U. de Leon1

1National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines Manila
2College of Public Health, University of the Philippines Manila

Background. Several Philippine studies on selected neglected parasitic diseases cite major challenges in laboratory diagnosis that require review of standards, policies and practices. Objectives. This review aims to: (1) describe the epidemiology of selected neglected parasitic diseases in the Philippines; (2) describe the current status of laboratory diagnosis of these diseases in terms of standards, policies and practices; and (3) identify challenges and opportunities for improvement of laboratory diagnosis.

Methods. Epidemiologic data were collected from published scientific papers and monographs. International standards were gathered from journal articles and the World Health Organization (WHO). Philippine policies were obtained from interviews with the Department of Health (DOH) and other agencies. Recommendations for policy and practice were formulated based on evidence and feasibility.

Results. High prevalence of neglected parasitic diseases in the country, coupled with lack of national policies on diagnosis and quality assurance guidelines specific to parasitology, pose significant challenges to accurate diagnosis.

Conclusion. Results of this review merit the development of a comprehensive Philippine policy on a quality assurance scheme for parasitology laboratories and stronger licensing standards. This policy should be supported through a network of reference centers that coordinate parasitology training, staff certification, and laboratory accreditation.

Key Words: parasitic diseases, laboratories, quality assurance, quality control