Updated: 09/03/2014 01:36

New technique to detect malaria

New technique to detect malaria

Scientists here have pioneered a new technique to detect malaria, possibly from the first onset of the disease, even before symptoms surface. 

That's four to five days ahead of conventional methods, making a difference in treating malaria. 

This is made possible with a new handheld device, invented by scientists from research centre SMART and Nanyang Technological University. 

The device picks up changes to iron nanoparticles in the blood stream, which occur when malaria is present. 

SMART research scientist, Dr Brian Peng, explains the advantage. 

"The current traditional way of doing malaria screening, that's by doing a blood smear and looking it through the microscope, that's very tedious and labour intensive. And yet, it's very difficult to find one single infected blood within 5 million red blood cells. The current way of doing it takes about 20 to 30 minutes. We have reduced the screening time to a few minutes."

Co-investigator Professor Peter Preiser says this new method is also more accurate, with a successful detection rate of around 90 per cent. 

"Most diagnostics out in market, they're not perfect. So when you sometimes talk to people in the field, they use one of these other tools, they re-do the test four times because they want to be absolutely sure what they see is correct and that's more expensive."

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