Consortium developing handheld malaria detector

British engineers recently announced the launch of an $8.4 million project to develop a portable device capable of detecting the presence of malaria parasites and their mutations in as little as 20 minutes.

The NanoMal consortium, led by researchers at St. George's, University of London, hope to bring laboratory-quality diagnostics to remote regions of the world with a device the size of a cellular phone, according to

The consortium claims the device will be able to extract malarial DNA from a finger prick of blood and then detect and sequence the specific mutations in the sample using a nanowire biosensor. NanoMal said that detecting the parasite's mutations can help stop the spread of artemisinin resistance.

"Recent research suggests there's a real danger that artemisinins could eventually become obsolete, in the same way as other anti-malarials," NanoMal's leader Sanjeev Krishna said, reports. "New drug treatments take many years to develop, so the quickest and cheapest alternative is to optimize the use of current drugs. The huge advances in tech are now giving us a tremendous opportunity to do that and to avoid people falling seriously ill."

In addition to the British researchers, the consortium includes handheld diagnostics specialist QuantuMDx and teams from the University of Tuebingen in Germany and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, according to