A new device that can help detect malaria within minutes has been invented. Doctors have hailed scientists who created the microchip at the Glasgow University. The development is a major boost to Western travelers to Africa who usually acquire the disease back home.
The flu-like symptoms can be missed until the patient is critically ill, BBC news reported. With the new device, the report said, blood samples are placed in the microchip, which is designed to detect the strain of disease. This means the best drug can be used to treat it.
Last year a study revealed more cases of the most dangerous type of malaria than ever before are being brought back to the UK from trips abroad, the news added. The Health Protection Agency study identified 6,753 cases of falciparum malaria diagnosed between 2002 and 2006.
Many malaria cases in the Western world arose from visits to west Africa made by people visiting relatives and friends. Project leader Dr Lisa Ranford-Cartwright said: “The current way of diagnosing is using a blood smear on a slide and examining it on a microscope.
“That will take a good microscopist a good hour to reach a diagnosis, it’s extremely difficult to make that diagnosis accurately. The chip can give us a result in as little as half an hour.”
Dr Heather Ferguson, a malaria researcher, picked up the disease in southern Kenya and it was only spotted by chance when she was giving a blood sample. She said: “Had I not been diagnosed at that moment and caught it within the next 24 hours all those millions of parasites would have replicated one more time, making eight times as many as there had been before, which could very easily have been lethal.”
Malaria is one of the biggest killers in the developing world. Transmitted through infected mosquitoes, malaria, infects 300 to 500 million people every year, kills one million a year, the majority are children under five and 3,000 children die a day from malaria. About 90% of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and it is estimated to cost $12 billion in lost productivity in Africa.