When clinicians want to stratify Plasmodium infestation in patients diagnosed with malaria, the process currently can take a few days to produce reliable results. Additionally, because certain strains of Plasmodium have become drug resistant, it is becoming more important to identify whether the particular infection can be treated with available medications. To help out on both fronts, researchers from the University of Glasgow are using a lab-on-chip device from STMicroelectronics to cut the testing down to less than one hour.
Dr Lisa Ranford-Cartwright, a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow and project lead, says the new lab-on-a-chip technology will help doctors treat the disease more quickly as well as save lives.
Last week, university researchers tested the Malaria chip with their first human blood sample from the Scottish Parasite Diagnostic Laboratory. The result, which proved positive for P. malariae Malaria, matched the diagnosis of the laboratory.
Dr Ranford-Cartwright said: “We are greatly encouraged by this initial result. Obviously we need to do a full programme of clinical tests, but the fact that this first test was positive is an excellent start.
“Currently, it can take anything up to 48 hours to determine whether a patient has Malaria and even then, doctors are unable to tell whether the parasite is drug resistant. In certain cases, a malaria diagnosis has to be confirmed by DNA amplification which can take another one to two days. The only current way to test for drug resistance is to give patients certain drugs and wait to see if they work.
“Our Malaria chip should be able to do the whole process in less than 60 minutes, and we hope that by the end of our development project we will have reduced this time further.”
Here’s a BBC video report on the research:
Press release: University leads way in Malaria research …
STMicroelectronics In-Check™ lab-on-chip technology…