FOUR laboratory staff have scored top marks in a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) certified malaria microscopy assessment held in Port Moresby, bringing the total number of level one-graded microscopists in Papua New Guinea to 13.

Supported by the Australia-China-PNG Trilateral Malaria Project, the four were among 12 participants who undertook the five-day assessment before graduating on Friday 8 November.

The WHO-certified External Competency Assessment of Malaria Microscopists (ECAMM); evaluates the skills of microscopists in detecting and diagnosing malaria in blood samples using a microscope.

During the assessment, each participant is graded based on the WHO’s competence levels from one to four, with level one being the highest.

Lina Lorry leads a team of five researchers at the PNG Institute of Medical Research (IMR) focusing on malaria and other mosquito borne diseases. She was one of the top-performing participants, an achievement she has tried to maintain for the past six years.

“I’m so happy I have maintained top levels since my first assessment in 2013, where I scored a level one. Then in 2016, I scored level two and now I went back up to a level one again,” Ms Lorry said.

Microscopists are assessed every three years to renew and refresh malaria microscopy competency.

According to global standards, the detection of malaria parasites through microscopy remains one of the best methods for malaria diagnosis. Incorrect or delayed diagnosis and treatment of malaria can lead to serious illness and even death in patients.

Also gaining a level one certification was Dr Paula Pusahai-Riman from the University of Papua New Guinea who took the assessment for the first time.

“I’m a lecturer and the head of the medical laboratory sciences course at the School of Medicine, but I have never done this assessment before. This assessment will definitely add value to my teaching methods,” she said.

Other high achieving participants were Carol Gaudi from Nonga Base General Hospital and Ernest Velemu from the Central Public Health Laboratory, both of whom maintained their level one status.

The assessment was facilitated by ECAMM expert, Ken Lilley, from the Australian Defence Force Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute in Queensland.

“This is my twenty-third course in PNG since the 80s and I’ve gotten to know a lot of very passionate people who are committed to their work in their respective hospitals and institutions. The refreshers and assessments are hard, but people always improve,” he said.

Since 2015, the Australia-China-PNG Trilateral Malaria Project has supported eight assessments and certified over 60 microscopists to WHO competency standards, increasing the quality of malaria diagnosis in Papua New Guinea’s health services.