The revolutionary rapid diagnostic test for malaria

The revolutionary rapid diagnostic test for malaria

Almost 450,000 people die of malaria every year according to the WHO estimation. Most are in Africa where the socio-economic conditions do not allow an early diagnosis of the disease which would be easily treated. The search for new rapid, low-cost and effective diagnostic tests for malaria is therefore a priority to fight this endemic disease.

A multidisciplinary team composed by Prof. R. Bertacco (coordinator of the project and director of Polifab), Prof. G. B. Fiore (head of the Experimental Micro and Biofluid-dynamics Laboratory) and Dr. G. Ferrari (member of I3N Lab headed by Prof. M. Sampietro), have developed a new lab-on-chip diagnostic test for the quantification of the malaria, which could meet all the requirements for an effective screening of the population.  The diagnostic test, named TMek, is based on the magnetic properties of the red blood cells infected by plasmodium, the malaria pathogen. The infected cells are attracted on the surface of a silicon microchip with an array of magnetic concentrators. The cells are detected and quantified through an electrical measurement of electrodes accordingly located on the surface of the silicon chip. TMek has been first tested at the Sacco Hospital (Milano) and then validated in an endemic zone (Cameroon). The tests have shown a limit of detection around 0.004% with an execution time of less 10 minutes, two times faster than the current rapid diagnostic test, and a negligible number of false positives.

TMek holds a great potential as novel rapid, quantitative and pan-plasmodic test for malaria suitable for on-field use in endemic zones. The project has been awarded with a Polisocial Awards 2018 grant and the Disruptive Innovation Prize of the 2018 edition of the Switch to Product competition for emerging start-up.

The research activity related to TMek is part of the Ph.D. project of three students of Politecnico di Milano: M. Giacometti (DEIB), F. Milesi (Physics department) and L. Coppadoro (DEIB).

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