New nanotechnology device quickly detects malaria

A group of scientists at St. George's University of London have developed a handheld device capable of rapidly detecting malaria infection and drug resistance.

Each year, nearly 800,000 people die from malaria. Some of the problem lies in poor detection methods. Currently, samples of a patient's blood need to be sent to a lab in order to be checked for malaria, which results in the patient's symptoms being blindly treated without information on the proper drugs required.

St. George's new device is capable of taking small samples of the patient's blood and analyzing them in 20 minutes. It then detects if the patient has malaria and gives information on drug resistances. This allows the right medication to be quickly delivered to the patient.

"Recent research suggests there's a real danger that artemisinins could eventually become obsolete, in the same way as other anti-malarials," Sanjeev Krishna, lead professor of the project, said. "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 technology are now giving us a tremendous opportunity to do that and to avoid people falling seriously ill or dying unnecessarily."

The device will be able to provide the same quality of results as those done in laboratories. Each device should cost the same amount as a smart phone, but may eventually be distributed for free to developing countries.