Despite the recent Ebola virus outbreak which has claimed over one and a half thousand lives as of August 26th, Malaria still remains Africa’s biggest killer.
Diagnosing Malaria has changed very little over the past seven decades – after taking a blood sample from a patient, a technician smears the blood across a glass slide, stains it with a special dye, and looks under a microscope for the Plasmodium parasite, which causes the disease. This approach gives an accurate count of how many parasites are in the blood — an important measure of disease severity — but is not ideal because there is potential for human error.
A research team from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology (SMART) have now developed a novel way to diagnose malaria using magnetic fields. This affordable and quick technique can detect parasitic waste products in the blood of infected patients.
Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical and biological engineering at MIT, said: “There is a real potential to make this into a field-deployable system, especially since you don’t need any kind of labels or dye. It’s based on a naturally occurring biomarker that does not require any biochemical processing of samples.”