Background: Primaquine is essential for the radical cure of vivax malaria, however its broad application is hindered by the risk of drug-induced haemolysis in individuals with glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. Rapid diagnostic tests capable of diagnosing G6PD deficiency are now available, but these are not used widely.
Methods: A series of qualitative interviews were conducted with policy makers and healthcare providers in four vivax-endemic countries. Routine G6PD testing is not part of current policy in Bangladesh, Cambodia or China, but it is in Malaysia. The interviews were analysed with regard to respondents perceptions of vivax malaria, -primaquine based treatment for malaria and the complexities of G6PD deficiency.
Results: Three barriers to the roll-out of routine G6PD testing were identified in all sites: (a) a perceived low risk of drug-induced haemolysis; (b) the perception that vivax malaria was benign and accordingly treatment with primaquine was not regarded as a priority; and, (c) the additional costs of introducing routine testing. In Malaysia, respondents considered the current test and treat algorithm suitable and the need for an alternative approach was only considered relevant in highly mobile and hard to reach populations.
Conclusions: Greater efforts are needed to increase awareness of the benefits of the radical cure of Plasmodium vivax and this should be supported by economic analyses exploring the cost effectiveness of routine G6PD testing.