Innovations in malaria slide reading

Faster, more accurate data management: every researcher’s wish.  Now a new system being piloted in the malaria research lab at MRC Unit The Gambia promises just that. Having looked for a computerised slide reading system and finding none, Database Developer Safayet Hossin has designed one in just four months and it promises to improve not only efficiency but also the quality of malaria slide reading.

System designer Safayet Hossin (centre) with Malaria laboratory staff Mariama Jallow (left) and supervisor Mortala Ndow (right).

System designer Safayet Hossin (centre) with Malaria laboratory staff Mariama Jallow (left) and supervisor Mortala Ndow (right).

Safayet says ‘Currently, the lab staff read the malaria slide, write the reading on a paper template prepared for a specific study and send these templates to the data management team for entry.’ Clearly the existing system has limitations. Safayet continues ‘Sometimes the same slide is read twice, and the lab technician may not notice such discrepancies, so we notify them and they have to go back to the slide box again to find out what happened.  All this can take up to three months.’  Now the slide data goes into the data management system at the same time as the slide is being read.  ‘This avoids the time consuming data entry process’ says Safayet ‘and at the same time we can ensure the same data is not being read twice.’

Reducing the requirement for data entry as a separate activity also has obvious cost saving implications.  Safayet continues ‘Currently, each slide is read twice and the results are verified by a third person (the data entry clerk).  With the new system, one person enters the data directly and the supervisor verifies.’

The security of data is also assured. Safayet says ‘We have a log-in system whereby users, verifiers or supervisors have different permissions in terms of changing the data.  The supervisor can fix a discrepancy, tell the lab technician to fix it, or if the discrepancies are too numerous the slides can be reviewed and the data fixed.’

So what do the users of the new system think about it?  Supervisor Mortala Ndow says ‘The new system is very good for our work!  It eliminates entry errors, for example.  With the book method you may enter errors and not detect them, but this system will not allow that.  Once you enter the data, your line manager or supervisor can have access.  The book method is more time consuming – you finish the reading, take the books to data entry, they re-enter the data.  Now we can save time and improve quality.’

And as quality is high on The Unit’s agenda, the new system will no doubt be welcomed in many quarters. As Safayet concludes ‘it will help with GCLP compliance – and this is one of our goals. Also, the data can be exported to an Excel file and sent to the Principal Investigators – so the PIs are also happy as they are getting their data in a more efficient manner.’

A system so new it does not have a name...At an impromptu naming ceremony, the new system was called the ‘Safayet Data Management Entry System (SDMES)’