A new rapid diagnostic test for all five strains of Plasmodium species that infects humans has been developed by a team led by Denmark scientists, according to a Aarhus University news release Nov. 27.
The article, recently published in the journal ACS Nano, describes the new technology that is designed to the very useful in field conditions where specially trained personnel, expensive equipment, clean water or electricity may be unavailable.
The highly sensitive technology, called REEAD (Rolling Circle-Enhanced Enzyme Activity Detection), makes it possible to diagnose malaria from a single drop of blood or saliva, according to researchers.
According to the release, the researchers say the REEAD technology is based on measuring the activity of an enzyme called topoisomerase I from the Plasmodium parasite.
Combined with a droplet microfluidics lab-on-a-chip platform, this design allowed for sensitive, specific, and quantitative detection of Plasmodium species in single drops of unprocessed blood with a detection limit of less than one parasite/μL.
In addition, the methodology allows the use of the non-invasive sample, saliva, to detect Plasmodium parasites.
A feature of the REEAD technology, according to researchers, includes the ability to detect strains of Plasmodium that other rapid procedures cannot, such as P. vivax and P. knowlesi.
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, Denmark professor, Birgitta Knudsen said, “This combination of molecular biologists, doctors, engineers and statisticians has been important for our success in developing the new method.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were about 216 million cases of the mosquito borne malaria (with an uncertainty range of 149 million to 274 million) and an estimated 655,000 deaths in 2010 (with an uncertainty range of 537,000 to 907,000).
Malaria mortality rates have fallen by more than 25% globally since 2000 and by 33% in the WHO African Region. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria.
Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, called “malaria vectors”, which bite mainly between dusk and dawn.
There are four parasite species that cause malaria in humans: Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale.
Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most common. Plasmodium falciparum is the most deadly.
In recent years, some human cases of malaria have also occurred with Plasmodium knowlesi – a species that causes malaria among monkeys and occurs in certain forested areas of South-East Asia.
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