Phone device may be used to detect malaria

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded a $100,000 grant to the University of Glasgow in order to develop a device that uses mobile-phone derived technology in order to detect and separate red blood cells infected with the malaria parasite.

The scientists behind the technology hope that, if successful, their efforts will pave the way for a mass produced, rapid and effective tool for malaria diagnosis, according to

The study, beginning in summer 2011, will utilize surface acoustic wave devices. These electronic components are more commonly found in televisions, mobile phones and other display-centered electronics.

The researchers hope to use surface acoustic waves to exert selective forces on malaria infected blood cells to separate them from uninfected blood cells so they can be successfully identified.

Different cells respond to surface acoustic waves in a variety of ways, depending on their physical properties, including their size, shape and elasticity, reports. Because malaria parasites cause red blood cells to alter their shape and elasticity, it is expected that they will respond differently than uninfected red blood cells when they are hit by waves at different frequencies

Malaria is caused by a parasite called plasmodium, which is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The parasites collect in the liver, where they multiply and then infect red blood cells.

Symptoms of malaria include headache, fever and vomiting, and usually appear within two weeks of a victim being bitten by an infected mosquito.