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Ugandan Man Invents 1-Minute Malaria Test That Doesn’t Require Blood

Malaria is the leading cause of death in Uganda. SHARETWEETEMAIL

By Jackie Marchildon

After blood tests failed to diagnose Brian Gitta with malaria, he took it upon himself to find a new way to test for the disease — and it doesn’t require any blood.

Gitta won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation  this week for a tool that can detect malaria simply by shining a red beam of light on someone’s finger.

The device is called Matibabu, which means “treatment” in Swahili.

After being clipped onto a patient’s finger, the light beam identifies if there have been changes in the color, shape, and concentration of the person’s red blood cells. Changes indicate the blood could be infected with malaria, according to BBC News.

The device determines its diagnosis within one minute and sends the results to a cellphone.

Malaria infected 216 million people worldwide in 2016, and caused 445,000 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

It is the leading cause of death in Uganda, but blood tests can be unreliable. For instance, it took four tests to diagnose Gitta, according to Shafik Sekitto, a member of the Matibabu team.

“It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development — in this case by improving health care,” Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize judge, said in a statement. “Matibabu is simply a game-changer.”

On top of the £25,000 (about US$33,000) award, this prize will provide the Matibabu team with support, funding, mentoring, and business training, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The team is now reporting on its findings and executing field trials, and has been approached by international researchers, according to BBC News.

“The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities — which is what we need most at the moment,” Gitta said in a statement.

Better and quicker tests could play a vital role in controlling malaria around the world.

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