Saliva tests to diagnose malaria one step closer as researchers get £1m for trials
A new test to diagnose malaria quickly using a patient’s saliva rather than blood could be available within two years after researchers were given more than £1m for field trials and development.
The new test is expected to make diagnosis quicker and easier and could help a new eradication push to stamp out a disease that killed an estimated 435,000 people in 2017.
The test for the first time detects a biomarker in the spit of those carrying the mosquito-borne parasite that causes the disease. Malaria carriers can be spotted even before they show symptoms, or have fallen ill.
Results are available in five to 20 minutes without samples being sent back to a lab. Because it works on saliva rather than blood, it is less invasive and easier for medics, parents and teachers to give the test, particularly to children, according to Erada, the medical technology start-up behind the test.
The mainstay for malaria diagnosis remains examining lab samples with a microscope, but the World Health Organisation has called for more new tools to detect the disease. Being able to spot the disease accurately and early is critical for treatment and surveillance. Misdiagnosis can also lead to death.
The new test will be marketed as SALVA! and uses technology developed out of research carried out by Professor Rhoel Dinglasan at the University of Florida. Japan’s Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) has now given the project more than £1m.
Catherine Ohura, chief executive of GHIT said: “Rapid diagnostic tests are crucial in curtailing malaria, the reason why we decided to invest in this innovative project and partnership led by the University of Florida.”
There are more than 200 million cases of malaria, caused by Plasmodium parasites spread by through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes, each year around the world. Africa is particularly hard hit. Some 29 countries accounted for the large majority of new cases and 85 percent of global deaths in 2017, and all but two of those countries were Africa. Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo account for more than a third of cases alone.
A recent report by malaria experts published in the Lancet, suggested the disease could be eradicated within a generation – by 2050. The incidence of the disease has already fallen by 36 per cent and the death rate by 60 per cent since 2000.