Researchers working on handheld malaria detector

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given researchers from the University of Exeter in Devon, England, approximately $1 million in funding to continue the development of a handheld device to detect malaria.

The scientists are currently conducting trials of the “inexpensive” battery operated device that uses magnetic imaging to detect crystals produced in the body in the presence of the malaria parasite, according to the BBC.

"There is an urgent need for a new diagnostic technique for malaria, particularly in the light of global warming,” Professor Dave Newman, who is leading the Exeter team, said, the BBC reports. "It threatens to spread the disease into new parts of the world, including southern Europe.”

Researchers conducted lab tests on the device during the first phase of trials and now plan to test it in Thailand and Kenya.

"The early results from our device are very promising and hugely exciting,” Newman said "We expect to ultimately produce a sensitive non-invasive device that will be cost effective and easy to use, making it suitable for developing countries where the need is greatest, Newman said, according to the BBC.

Malaria is responsible for the deaths of over one million people around the world every year, according to estimates by the World Health Organization.