News / Science & Technology

Laser Scanner Detects Malaria Infections in Seconds

A possible rapid, non-invasive test for malaria infection detects tiny vapor nanobubbles produced by the malaria parasite when it is zapped by a short laser pulse. (Rice University)
A possible rapid, non-invasive test for malaria infection detects tiny vapor nanobubbles produced by the malaria parasite when it is zapped by a short laser pulse. (Rice University)
Jessica Berman
Researchers have developed the first non-invasive method of detecting malaria infection using a laser beam scanner. The painless test appears to be 100 percent accurate and does not require using any blood.

Currently, the gold standard of malaria testing is examining a blood smear under the microscope for evidence of the deadly parasite. A diagnosis requires trained technicians, expensive equipment and time, things that are not always available in poorer and more remote parts of the world.

But so-called “vapor nanobubble” technology would eliminate the need to draw any blood. It only requires an individual to place a finger on a laser device, according to Dmitri Lopotko, a researcher with the department of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

“We shine a very short light pulse through the skin.  And this light pulse is absorbed only by malaria parasites because of the wavelength we use. And in response to this short light pulse, the parasite literally explodes,” he said.

Malaria mortality rates, by age groups, 2000-2012Malaria mortality rates, by age groups, 2000-2012
x
Malaria mortality rates, by age groups, 2000-2012
Malaria mortality rates, by age groups, 2000-2012
The light pulse - from a low-powered laser - is trained on an extremely tiny particle called hemozoin that is produced by the malaria parasite once it has infected red blood cells. Lopotko said hemozoin crystals are not found in normal red cells.

As they are heated by the laser, the crystals create a tiny vapor of miniscule bubbles inside infected cells.

When the bubbles burst, Lopotko said they have a unique acoustic signature, which scientists can hear and count.

“You can detect just a few infected cells in a million normal cells,” he said.

Lopotko said there were no false positive results in experiments with the device, making the nanobubble technology extremely accurate even in the earliest stages of a malaria infection when treatment is extremely important.   

A possible rapid, non-invasive test for malaria infection detects tiny vapor nanobubbles produced by the malaria parasite when it is zapped by a short laser pulse. (Rice University)A possible rapid, non-invasive test for malaria infection detects tiny vapor nanobubbles produced by the malaria parasite when it is zapped by a short laser pulse. (Rice University)
x
A possible rapid, non-invasive test for malaria infection detects tiny vapor nanobubbles produced by the malaria parasite when it is zapped by a short laser pulse. (Rice University)
A possible rapid, non-invasive test for malaria infection detects tiny vapor nanobubbles produced by the malaria parasite when it is zapped by a short laser pulse. (Rice University)
The portable battery-powered device won’t  be cheap, however, costing around $10,000-$20,000 each to manufacture.

“But each device will be capable to screen more than 200,000 people per year. So the cost of analysis for each patient will be less than 50 cents,” he said.

And it can be used by non-medical personnel to diagnose suspected cases of malaria.

Lopotko said the light beam used by this rapid, non-invasive technology is less powerful than the familiar laser pointer and has been shown to be safe in volunteers. The next step is clinical trials at a hospital in Houston that cares for patients infected with malaria, followed shortly thereafter by global clinical trials in 2014.  

An article describing the transdermal malaria detection device is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Olanrewaju Babatunde from: Lagos, Nigeria
January 07, 2014 1:27 AM
Fantastic but not affordable by those that will need it.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid