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A new invention that can diagnose Malaria better than ever

Flickr: Gates Foundation

What can you do with two magnets and a laser pointer? Apparently, detect Malaria. I’m thinking it’s a little more complex than that, but this is the basis of the new device that has been created to diagnose the disease that affects millions.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 3.2 billion people globally that are at risk of contracting malaria. 198 million cases are reported every year and a diagnosis a few days earlier can mean the difference in saving someone’s life.

There are two current methods of identifying the malaria parasite in a person’s bloodstream. The first requires highly trained physicians to observe it in a blood sample under a microscope. That means that training, equipment, and time is needed in situations that often might not have any or all of those. The second method is a “quick-response” test-strip that can give an answer on the color-coded dip stick in a matter of 15 minutes. But this test misses one in every six cases when the parasite is too little to detect.

But now there’s a new innovation in testing by the Disease Diagnostics Group. CEO and co-founder John Lewandowski introduces the Rapid Assessment of Malaria device. The idea behind the magnets is this: the parasites that cause malaria take in red blood cells but cannot process the iron in them. So, the magnets detect whether or not there is iron in the bloodstream, and give results in five minutes with extreme accuracy.

This is all based on a study performed with mice. The next step is for a prototype to travel to Peru with the US Navy to be tested in the field. If successful, these potentially live-saving devices will hit the market and hopefully make malaria much more detectable all over the world.