Beaming out malaria

Non-invasive test kit:A few years ago, a group of students pursuing science and technology degrees in Uganda, often missed class because of malarial attacks. A medical check, in many instances, ended up with them being misdiagnosed. It was such experiences that spurred them to think of developing a low cost and reusable device that could be used to test for malaria instantly. According to Brian Gitta, one of the students, they were determined to find a solution. After much hard work they have now come up with a device called ‘Matibabu’, a word in Swahili which means “treatment”. Unlike current testing methods that require blood to be drawn for testing, ‘Matibabu’ is “bloodless”. The device is clipped onto a finger and ‘using light and magnetism, a red beam of light scans the finger to detect changes in the colour, shape and concentration of red blood cells — all of which are often affected when the malaria parasite is present in the body’. The result is available within a minute and sent to a mobile phone which is linked to the device. Another key feature is that one does not require specialised training to use the device. The students believe ‘Matibabu’ is the answer to addressing diagnosis of malaria in low-income settings such as Uganda. Says Moris Atwine, 25, and a co-innovator, “Matibabu offers prompt, accurate diagnosis and reduces challenges of power blackouts, the need for trained personnel and time spent on diagnosis.” The device and application won the first prize at this year’s ‘Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation’ — an award dedicated to engineering innovation on the continent, which was announced last month. ‘Matibabu’ has also received an honourable mention from Time magazine as one of 50 best inventions of 2018. The ‘Matibabu’ team hopes to have a working device within the next two years and is working with the Mulago National Referral Hospital, in Uganda, to test and validate the device against current diagnostic test methods. Picture shows Moris with a smartphone which is used as a part of the device.

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