Portable malaria kit identifies specific strains in minutes
Researchers at St George's, University of London announced yesterday the launch of their €5.2 million project to develop a portable device that can detect the malarial parasite.
While this on its own isn't new, the device takes it further, claiming it can identify specific mutations in as little as 20 minutes.
The device, about the size of the new iPhone 5, can take a finger prick of blood, extract the malarial DNA and then detect and sequence the specific mutations linked to drug resistance using a nanowire biosensor, states a press release.
The purpose of the project, NanoMal, is to bring lab-quality results to remote regions of the world at a fraction of the time and cost, in addition to making it possible to track outbreaks and spread of particular strains.
While the device itself is a bit pricey, roughly several hundred dollars, it could be issued free in developing countries, noted the press release. A single-test cartridge will be around €13 initially, with costs potentially reduced based on need.
Around 800,000 people die from malaria each year after being bitten by mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites, in some regions, the parasite is developing resistance to even the most powerful anti-malarial drugs.
But Nanomal isn't the only game in town: Amplino, a company made up of three Dutch DYI bio-hackers, Jelmer Cnossen, Wouter Bruins, and Pieter van Boheemen, has also created a mobile malaria testing kit that it says can identify different strains better than existing tests. The team just won €40,000 in the Vodafone Mobile for Good competition to further develop the kit.