Scientists in Singapore develop a quicker, cheaper and potentially more reliable way to improve diagnosis in rural areas
A team of scientists in Singapore have created a new way to test for malaria within minutes using magnets. “The new technique uses a significantly smaller blood sample to traditional blood-smear methods, and is more sensitive and less error-prone,” says Donhee Ham, professor of electrical engineering at Harvard University.
Malaria currently infects over 200 million people worldwide, mainly in developing countries. This new technology could allow hospitals to rapidly screen and monitor patients for malaria at a significantly lower cost per patient, and may be portable enough to be used in the field.
So, how does it work?
Currently malaria is diagnosed by taking a blood sample from a patient, staining it with a dye, and looking at the sample with a microscope to detect the Plasmodium parasite which causes the disease.
This new technique uses magnetic resonance relaxometry (MRR) to detect a parasitic waste in the blood of infected patients. “There is real potential to make this into a field-deployable system, since you don’t need any kind of labels or dye,” says Jongyoon Han, one of the senior authors of the paper.
The researchers used a small, 0.5-tesla magnet. The current device prototype is small enough to sit on a lab bench, but the team is also working on a portable version for field-based diagnoses.
After taking a blood sample, the analysis takes less than a minute. Only a droplet of blood is needed, making the procedure much less invasive for patients and easier for healthcare workers.
The Latest on: Malaria test
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The Latest on: Malaria test
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