Magnetic tech developed to better diagnose malaria
It can be difficult to determine if someone has malaria – enough so, that many people who don't even have the disease end up being treated for it. A new technique, however, could make diagnosis much easier and more reliable.
When present in a patient's bloodstream, malaria parasites break down the person's blood in such a way that its heme molecules reassemble themselves into organic crystallites. Those crystallites contain magnetic iron, which can be detected in blood samples via the new process.
Known as rotating-crystal magneto-optical detection (RMOD), the technique was developed by an international team of scientists led by Dr. Stephan Karl from Australia's James Cook University. When recently tested in Papua New Guinea – on approximately 1,000 patients who were suspected of having malaria – RMOD was shown to perform well as compared the most reliable existing method.
Unlike many traditional diagnostic techniques, however, RMOD could likely soon be performed utilizing portable, inexpensive, easy-to-use devices.
"It's very promising, as RMOD testing can be conducted after a short training session and provides test results within 10 minutes," says Karl. "From a funding perspective the cost is very low since no expensive reagents are used."
The scientists are now refining the technology, so that it can better differentiate between previous and current malaria infections.
A paper on the research, which also involved Prof. Istvan Kezsmarki from Germany's University of Augsburg, was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.