Brian Gitta: A Malaria Test That Would Not Need Blood Samples

The new malaria test kit works by shining a red beam of light onto a finger

0
A health service worker takes a blood sample for a malaria test in Dajabon, Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti, Oct. 6, 2009. A test that doesn't require a needle or blood has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation
A health service worker takes a blood sample for a malaria test in Dajabon, Dominican Republic, on the border with Haiti, Oct. 6, 2009. A test that doesn't require a needle or blood has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, VOA

Languishing with fever and frustrated by delays in diagnosing his illness, Brian Gitta came up with a bright idea: a malaria test that would not need blood samples or specialized laboratory technicians.

That inspiration has won the 25-year-old Ugandan computer scientist a prestigious engineering prize for a noninvasive malaria test kit that he hopes will be widely used across Africa.

For developing the reusable test kit known as Matibabu, Gitta this month was awarded the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. The award by the Royal Academy of Engineering in Britain comes with $32,940.

Malaria is the biggest killer in Africa, and the sub-Saharan region accounts for about 80 percent of the world’s malaria cases and deaths. Cases rose to 216 million in 2016, up from 211 million cases in 2015, according to the latest World Malaria Report, released late last year. Malaria deaths fell by 1,000, to 445,000.

The mosquito-borne disease is a challenge to prevent, with increasing resistance reported to both drugs and insecticides.

No needles

The new malaria test kit works by shining a red beam of light onto a finger to detect changes in the shape, color and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria. The results are sent within a minute to a computer or mobile phone linked to the device.

A Portugal-based firm has been contracted to produce the components for Matibabu, the Swahili word for “treatment.”

“It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development, in this case by improving health care,” Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation judge, said in a statement. “Matibabu is simply a game changer.”

A woman carrying a baby holds a treated mosquito net during a malaria prevention action at Ajah in Eti Osa East district of Lagos, Nigeria, April 21, 2016.
A woman carrying a baby holds a treated mosquito net during a malaria prevention action at Ajah in Eti Osa East district of Lagos, Nigeria, April 21, 2016. VOA

Gitta and five colleagues, all trained in computer science or engineering, developed an affordable, bloodless test that does not need a specialist to operate. The new test will be suitable for use in Africa’s rural areas, where most cases of malaria occur, because it will not depend on sending blood samples to a distant laboratory.

Others are also working to fill the need for quicker, easier malaria tests. There are more than 200 rapid diagnostic test products for malaria on the market, according to the WHO.

80 percent accurate now

The fifth-generation prototype of Matibabu, with an accuracy rate of 80 percent, is still a work in process. Gitta and his group aim to refine the device until it achieves an accuracy rate exceeding 90 percent.

Matibabu has yet to be formally subjected to all the necessary clinical trials under Ugandan safety and ethics regulations.

“It excites me as a clinician,” said Medard Bitekyerezo, a Ugandan physician who chairs the National Drug Authority. “I think the National Drug Authority will approve it.”

The government should invest in the project so that its developers don’t struggle financially, he added. The unit cost of the latest prototype is about $100.

Despite the optimism, Gitta has found a hurdle he didn’t anticipate: Some patients are skeptical of unfamiliar technology.

“The doctors will tell you that some people will not leave the hospital until their children have been pricked, and until they have been given anti-malaria drugs and painkillers, even if the kid is not sick,” he said.

Also read: From Radio Signals A Pill Could Tell About Gut Health And Help Doctors

“We think we are developing for hospitals first, so that people can first get attached to the brand, and gain the trust of patients over time.” (VOA)

Next Story

Scientists Identify Antibodies With Potential to Block COVID-19 Virus

Journal Science published the study of antibodies that could potentially block the virus

0
Coronavirus
Scientists have found a pair of antibodies which could pottentially block the COVID-19 virus. Pixabay

From a patient who recovered from COVID-19, scientists have isolated a pair of neutralising antibodies that could potentially block the virus responsible for the pandemic from entering into host cells.

The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that a “cocktail” containing both antibodies could provide direct therapeutic benefits for COVID-19 patients.

The new information detailed in the study could also aid the development of small molecule antivirals and vaccine candidates to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19.

The twin antibodies identified by the researchers are named B38 and H4.

The study by Yan Wu from Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues found that the two antibodies bind to the glycoprotein spike of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and thereby block the entry of the virus into host cells.

doctors
The twin antibodies identified by the researchers are named B38 and H4. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Read More: Realme Global User Base Reaches 3.5 Crore, 2.1 crore in India Alone

Preliminary tests of the two antibodies in a mouse model resulted in a reduction of virus titers, suggesting that the antibodies may offer therapeutic benefits.

The researchers found that the antibodies can each bind simultaneously to different epitopes on the spike’s receptor binding domain (RBD), such that both antibodies together may confer a stronger neutralising effect than either antibody on its own — a prediction supported by in vitro experiments.

This feature also means that, should one of the viral epitopes mutate in a way that prevents the binding of one of the two antibodies, the other antibody may yet retain its neutralising activity. (IANS)

Next Story

Low Magnitude Earthquakes Are Usual in Delhi: Scientists

Scientists said that 100 such earthquakes have been witnessed in Delhi in last 10 years

0
lava
Delhi has faced 100 such earthquakes in last one decade. Pixabay

By Aakanksha Khajuria

The National Centre of Seismology, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, on Monday sought to assuage the people’s fear regarding frequent earthquakes in the national capital, asserting that tremors between two to three magnitude are usual and have hit the city 100 times in the last ten years.

The clarification came a day after a medium-intensity earthquake of magnitude 3.4 hit the city. Its epicentre was near Wazirpur in the northeast of the capital.

“Delhi has been witnessing earthquakes in the range of two to three magnitude frequently. There is nothing to worry about as they are a normal phenomenon. In the last ten years, the city has been hit by more than 100 earthquakes,” an official from the seismology centre told IANS.

earth-quake
Such Delhi earthquakes are a normal phenomena, scientists said. Pixabay

Clearing the air, the founder of Live Weather of India also asserted that Delhi and its surrounding regions have always remained home to small quakes. “We just keep on releasing pressure from time to time with minor quakes,” Navdeep Dahiya assured.

Read More: Rural India Setting Example for Others Amid Lockdown

On April 12, an earthquake of magnitude 3.5 had struck the city and tremors were felt in Noida and Ghaziabad as well.

According to data collated from the National Centre of Seismology’s website by Dahiya, the NCR region has been hit by 11 earthquakes between March 23 to May 10. As all these came amidst a nation-wide lockdown, they added more to worries of the people. (IANS)

Next Story

Know About the Importance of Iron in Blood

Can Iron worsen Malaria infection? Find it out here

0
blood
The body cannot make enough healthy red blood cells, if it lacks the required quantity of iron. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Iron is an essential mineral for most of organisms. The body cannot make enough healthy red blood cells, if it lacks the required quantity of iron. The lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia.

Dr Niti Kautish, Senior consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, sheds light on the importance or iron.

It is an important component of hemoglobin and helps in transporting oxygen throughout the body. But at the same time an excess iron can also be very dangerous. It promotes the formation of damaging oxidative radicals. This can also deposit in organs such as the liver, heart and pancreas which can lead to conditions like cirrhosis, heart failure and diabetes. Since both iron deficiency and high concentration of iron can compromise cellular function, the levels of in the cells must be regulated precisely.

blood
Malaria parasites feed on iron in blood. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Please follow NewsGram on Twitter to get updates on the latest news

This can be well studied in the case of malaria. Malaria infections are a major global cause of anemia. The relationship between malaria and iron is often debated. It has been a subject of discussion in the global health community since 2006, ever since a large-scale trial on the island of Pemba discovered that iron supplementation in children related to the rise in malaria-related mortality.

Through the study conducted by National Institute of Health (NIH), let us further understand the relationship between iron and malaria; and how iron worsens malaria infection:

Malaria parasites feed on iron. Organisms have a protein called ferroprotein, which prevents toxic buildup of iron in RBC. It also protects the cells against malaria infection. By studying mice and samples from malaria patients, researchers found out that high concentration of iron interferes with ferroprotein.Fe

The researchers observed that lack of ferroprotein in erythroid cells (red blood cells and their precursors) allowed iron to accumulate to toxic levels inside RBCs. The mice with intact ferroprotein were more stable, had less parasites and better outcomes as compared to the mice that lacked ferroprotein.

Please follow NewsGram on Facebook to get updates on the latest news

It was also observed that a hormone called hepcidin regulates ferroprotein in red blood cells and their precursors. The hormone is more abundant in high iron concentration and lowers the ferroprotein level. It also prevents iron from being removed from the cells.

blood
The lack of red blood cells is called iron deficiency anemia. (Representational Image). Pixabay

The researchers also studied if the ferroprotein mutation Q248H, which is found in African population protects against malaria.

After studying children hospitalized for malaria in Zambia, it was observed that nearly 20 percent of the children who had the mutation, had fewer malarial parasites and tolerated fewer for longer period before visiting the hospital. The results stated that the mutation protects ferroprotein from hepcidin’s effects, and thus protects against malaria. This further explains the presence of mutation in the people living in malaria endemic regions.

Also Read- Here’s What You Should Tell Your Kids About Coronavirus

In another study on 290 pregnant women in Ghana, it was observed that the 9 percent, who had the ferroprotein mutation Q248H, were comparatively less prone to pregnancy associated malaria, in which malaria parasites cause adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes by accumulating in the placenta. (IANS)