London: Researchers have developed a new, inexpensive and sensitive method that makes it possible to diagnose malaria from a single drop of blood or saliva.
The method might eventually be used in low-resource areas without the need for specially trained personnel, expensive equipment, clean water or electricity.
With the development of this method, the researchers hope to go one step further in identifying and treating all patients suffering from malaria.
Researchers at Aarhus University have developed the method based on measuring the activity of an enzyme called topoisomerase I from the Plasmodium parasite.
The technology called REEAD (Rolling Circle-Enhanced Enzyme Activity Detection) makes it possible to diagnose malaria from a single drop of blood or saliva, the University statement said.
This method is much more time-effective and cost-effective than current diagnostic methods and can be performed by personnel who have no specialised training. It can therefore be used in low-resource areas without the use of expensive equipment, clean water or electricity.
The ongoing fight against malaria is complicated by increasing problems with resistant Plasmodium parasites. In addition, several Plasmodium species (P vivax and P knowlesi) cannot be detected with the usual quick-test methods.
The new REEAD-based method distinguishes itself from other quick-test methods because it can measure whether a given Plasmodium infection is resistant to drugs.
The newly developed technology is also the only quick-test method that makes it possible to diagnose the less common malaria parasites in addition to the most common Plasmodium parasites (P falciparum and P vivax).
The unique sensitivity, combined with its ability to detect infection in very small samples of blood or saliva, makes the method suitable for large-scale screening projects.
This is of great importance in areas where the disease is close to being eradicated, and where it is therefore essential to identify and treat all patients infected with one of the above-mentioned parasites ? even those who do not show symptoms of the disease.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease that strikes more than 200 million people every year ? mainly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The disease is caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is spread by infected mosquito bites.