THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2016

New malaria testing method detects parasitic waste

Researchers from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) recently developed a method for detecting waste of the parasite that causes malaria in humans.

The method, which employs resonance relaxometry, could be used as a more reliable way to test for malaria, ScienceDaily reports.

The SMART technique detects a waste product known as hemozoin from the Plasmodium parasite, which is a weakly paramagnetic crystallite. The crystals, which interfere with the normal magnetic spins of hydrogen atoms, respond in a particular way when exposed to magnetic fields.

"What we are trying to really measure is how the hydrogen's nuclear magnetic resonance is affected by the proximity of other magnetic particles," Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical and biological engineering at MIT and a senior author of a recent paper on the technique, said, according to ScienceDaily.

The traditional method testing for malaria uses a blood-smear technique, which stains blood with a reagent that dyes the nuclei of cells. As red blood cells do not contain nuclei, it is assumed that those that show up in the test are infected.

Researchers believe the new SMART method will prove to be a more effective method for testing for malaria.

"There is real potential to make this into a field-deployable system, especially since you don't need any kind of labels or dye," Han said, ScienceDaily reports. "It's based on a naturally occurring biomarker that does not require any biochemical processing of sample."