Rice University Engineers Develop The Easiest Malaria Test Yet

Many malaria-related deaths are still reported across the world to this day yet there are available and affordable treatments. The problem is that most of the people who die of this disease are diagnosed too late, some do not visit hospitals especially in rural areas due to lack of resources and some are misdiagnosed. The common denominator is that treatment is not delivered promptly.

But what if malaria could be diagnosed faster and more effectively? This is what researchers from Rice University in Houston Texas have been working on. The researchers recently unveiled a microneedle patch that is designed to offer a rapid testing solution for malaria. The researchers published details about the device in the Microsystems and Nanoengineering journal.

Understanding the mechanism behind the novel malaria test kit

The device tests the protein biomarkers that are usually embedded in the dermal interstitial fluid that is found in blisters. It is the same fluid that surrounds all skin cells. The fluid contains malaria biomarkers in malaria patients and also in patients suffering from numerous other diseases. Peter Lillehoj, a mechanical engineer from the Brown school of engineering at Rice University believes that the fluid might also contain biomarkers for the coronavirus.

“In this paper, we focus on malaria detection because this project was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it’s a big priority for them,” stated Lillehoj.

Lillehoj also said the technology can be adapted such that it will detect the biomarkers of other diseases. He developed the test together with Xue Jiang who was the lead researcher in a study designed to evaluate the test’s ability to accurately detect malaria. Each test is a sticky patch that contains 16 very small and hollow needles on one side while the other side contains a lateral-flow test strip lined with antibodies.

The antibodies in the strip react when they encounter the malaria biomarkers and this process results in a change of color on two-color strips on the top. The two lines turn red when a patient has malaria and only one red line appears when the subject is negative. The test works quickly and once the results are out, the kit can be ripped off similar to how a bandage strip is removed.

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