A rapid, affordable, non-invasive diagnostic tool could help accelerate progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals to eliminate malaria, according to the researchers who developed it.
The WHO malaria technical strategy 2016–2030 aims to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by at least 75 percent by 2025 and 90 percent by 2030 to 2015.
But by 2021, malaria cases and deaths are on track to drop by 48 percent. On current paths, the world is on track to reach malaria targets by 88 percent, according to Abdisalan Noor, head of the Strategic Plan for the United Response, WHO Global Malaria Programme.
To help get back on track, researchers in Australia and Brazil have developed a handheld, smartphone-based, near-infrared spectrometer that shines an infrared light for five seconds on a person’s ears, hands, or fingers to detect changes in blood pressure. due to malaria.
It is hoped that it can be used for universal surveillance as proposed by WHO as part of current malaria eradication strategies.
“If we find a large part of asymptomatic patients, we can treat them and prevent transmission to others, especially children under five years old,” says Maggy Lord, the leader of the study, published on 7 December i PNAS habitat.
Sensitive diagnostics will play an important role in monitoring and early detection of outbreaks as malaria activities intensify and countries move towards elimination stages.
Jane Achan, senior research advisor, Malaria Consortium
“By shining a light on a part of the body, an infrared signal is recorded by the phone or the brain,” said Lord, a researcher at the University of of Biological Sciences from the University of Queensland, says. SciDev.Net. “This infrared signal is a reflection of what is in a person’s blood. [As] Malaria infects the red blood cells and causes structural and chemical changes – these changes are what can be seen in the reflected signal.”
Computer algorithms are used to develop predictive algorithms that can distinguish people who are infected with malaria from those who are not, and the results will be released over time, he explained.
“These off-the-shelf scanners cost about $2,500, but they don’t require any sample processing techniques or reagents to operate, so they can scale up to scan nearly 1,000 people per day per device ,” said Lord.
The device is the result of a joint research project between Australia’s Queen’s University and Brazil’s Instituto Oswaldo Cruz.
The technology could also help prevent other vector-borne diseases, such as Zika and dengue in asymptomatic people, which act as a source of mosquito transmission, he said. the Lord.
“This is just a proof of concept and with more funding, we will expand the research to other malaria areas before we can recommend these tools for clinical use. Our work is expanding and partners in Kenya and Tanzania,” he added.
The WHO’s 2022 World Malaria Report emphasizes the need for investment in new equipment, strengthening health systems and increasing funding. There were an estimated 619,000 deaths and 247 million cases of malaria worldwide by 2021. Although African countries account for 95 percent of cases and 96 percent of deaths, nine malaria-endemic countries in the Southeast Asian region included about two. percent of malaria burden last year.
By 2021, more than three-quarters of malaria cases in the WHO South-East Asia region were in India with increases in cases also seen in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Korea and Indonesia . In WHO’s Western Pacific region, Papua New Guinea accounts for 87 percent of all cases in 2021, followed by the Solomon Islands, Cambodia and the Philippines.
Malaria Consortium Senior Research Advisor Jane Achan says, “Sensitivity diagnostics will play an important role in monitoring and early detection of outbreaks as malaria activities intensify and progress. of countries in the elimination stages. In this regard, there is a great need for new and innovative diagnostic tools, especially in light of the threat posed to the effectiveness of some tools currently available.
“Non-invasive malaria diagnostic tools are attractive as a rapid, reagent-free and cost-effective method, but their sensitivity and specificity need to be confirmed in the endpoints and evidence collected on how they can be implemented to health care around the world,” said Achan, who not related to learning, they say SciDev.Net.
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