Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by one the four species of Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. In 2012 alone, malaria caused over 625 000 deaths, mostly among African children. Due to its high child mortality and prevalence in Sub-Saharan regions, in 2000 a new program was launched in Nigeria, the Roll Back Malaria (RBM), aiming at reducing the burden of malaria by using presumptive treatment (PT) based, in many cases, only on fever as single sign of malaria infection. This approach, necessary due to limited laboratory support leading to long waiting times for laboratory diagnostic and consequently increased risks associated with delayed anti-malaria treatments, is often the only available option for local health service providers. Although studies have shown a significant decrease in malaria burden since the beginning of the RBM program in areas where the PT approach is employed, continuation of this practice already led to over-diagnosis of the malaria, under-diagnosis of other illness, increased drug wastage, increase adverse anti-malaria drug reactions, increased parasite-drug- resistance, and unnecessary financial burden to local health systems. We propose to develop an antibody- free diagnostic screening device that is based on the principles of magnetic levitation, allowing for separation of infected red blood cells from un-infected red blood cells. Our screening device will be light-weight, disposable, and cheap to manufacture with an indefinite shelf life at room temperature. The prototype system requires less than a drop of fingerprick blood (<1 ??L) and a small volume of RBC-friendly buffer containing paramagnetic ions. Binary diagnostic results is obtained within a few minutes solely by using a set of permanent magnets immobilized in a plastic structure surrounding a glass/plastic capillary containing the blood. Results are recorded and stored using a standard camera phone. No additional imaging equipment, staining reagents, or consumables are required.
The purpose of this application is to test the specificity and sensitivity of a novel screening/diagnostic device based on the principles of magnetic levitation for detection of malaria-infected blood, both is laboratory conditions as well as on the filed. The results obtained using the device will be imaged and analyzed using a standard cell phone camera and compared against the results obtained using standard microscopy-based diagnostic methods.
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