IISc Researchers develop Smartphone Malaria Test

A team of researchers at Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, have developed a handheld device that helps in diagnosing malaria, using a smartphone. The new device requires less than a drop of blood (approximately ten lakh blood cells) to detect the malaria-infected cells, in just 30 minutes of time.

Malaria kills a child every minute around the globe and according to WHO, 207 million people were diagnosed with malaria in 2012. The death toll that year was over six lakhs, out of which, 80 per cent were children aged 5 or less. Over 13 lakh cases were reported in India in 2011, which included 754 deaths.

The team of researchers, led by Dr Sai Siva Gorthi, assistant professor at the Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, IISc, have developed this ‘Lab on Chip’ which costs less than Rs. 10 per test and would be useful in areas where access to Pathology Labs is not available. A disposable cartridge adds re-agents to the blood sample, to separate malignant cells from healthy ones. The sample is then analyzed by the device, which does a quantitative analysis on the subject.

The device is a hardware add-on for the smartphone’s camera, and the app that the team developed gives the complete blood reports through quantitative analysis. “The hardware essentially helps turn the camera phone into a microscope,” Dr. Gorthi said.

The devices can be adapted to diagnose other diseases that include changes in the normal cell morphology.  “Any disease that is tested using the existing gold standard of microscopy – such as sickle cell anaemia or even cancers like leukemia – can theoretically be tested using the principle of this device,” Dr. Gorthi continued, “The device, which I sat a prototype stage, could take another three years to reach the market.”

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