Work to develop the world’s first hand-held non-invasive malaria detector, which has adapted the magnetic and optical technologies used for data storage, has begun.
‘When it infects red blood cells the malaria parasite changes their magnetic susceptibility by transforming normal diamagnetic oxy-haemoglobin into paramagnetic Haemozoin’, said
Healthy, non-infected engineers have donated samples of their own blood regularly so that a baseline for the magnetic readings can be ascertained. Then the analysis will be applied to samples that have known levels of infection, supplied by
‘We are hoping we will be able to measure at least three, if not four, parameters to avoid false positives or negatives,’ said Newman. When researchers are confident the technology works on blood outside the body, they will develop a hand-held device that can be placed against the ear lobe or the webbing between fingers. If they can demonstrate that it is affordable, the industrial partners will have the option to develop the final product.
Elements of the three-year project and its application are thought to be so novel that details cannot be released until the intellectual properties are protected. Newman first considered similar applications 25 years ago.
‘Most malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan