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New malaria rapid test developed
Malaria kills over 600,000 people worldwide each year. So far there is no vaccination against the dangerous tropical disease. However, with a new malaria rapid test, infections should be detected within minutes in the future.
Detection of infection within a few minutes
Malaria claims over 600,000 lives each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). So far there is no vaccination against the dangerous, tropical infectious disease. But research has now gone a step further in the fight against the disease. For example, a message from the dpa news agency reports that a new approach for a rapid test for malaria enables detection of the infection within a few minutes. Accordingly, a metabolic product of the pathogen, hemozoin, is used for the test. The scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge report this in the journal "Nature Medicine".
Less prone to human error
The infection is detectable with the portable system even with fewer than ten parasites per microliter of blood. Accordingly, only tiny amounts of blood are needed for the test. In addition, this is less prone to human error than conventional methods and, unlike these, does not require chemicals to prepare the samples. To detect the hemozoin pigments, the researchers used so-called MR relaxometry, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure. Certain molecules in the body are excited by means of strong magnetic fields and an electrical signal is subsequently triggered in a receiver circuit. Unlike the large MRI devices, for example in clinics, the developed system is so small that it can be used well in mobile laboratories.
Approach must prove itself in further test series
The scientists demonstrated the potential of the method with human blood and the Plasmodium falciparum pathogen, which causes the particularly dangerous malaria tropica. The system was also tested on mice infected with Plasmodium berghei. With the test, the infection was recognized at an early stage. And in less than five minutes, as the researchers write. However, the approach has to prove itself in further test series before it could actually be used. At the moment, electronics and the magnet system in particular are still expensive. However, the scientists believe that it will be feasible to manufacture the devices in the future at a unit price of less than $ 2,000.
Resistance complicates the fight against malaria
In the future, the new method could be used, for example, to make clinical forecasts, monitor emerging resistance to malaria drugs and determine the severity of an infection. Such resistance makes the fight against tropical disease extremely difficult. It was reported only a month ago that a resistant malaria pathogen is spreading in Southeast Asia. Elizabeth Ashley of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) said at the time that urgent measures are needed "to prevent the spread of resistance from Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh and India." (Ad)
Image: Andreas Dengs, www.photofreaks.ws / pixelio.de