Automated Malaria Diagnostic Test via Microfluidic Separation of Infected Red Blood Cells

Every year, 350 to 500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, resulting in over a million deaths. The majority of these cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa and are responsible for 25 percent of pediatric fatalities under the age of five. In terms of the financial burden, estimates suggest that malaria costs Africa more than $12 billion annually. The global campaign to control and eradicate malaria requires accurate, rapid and cost-effective diagnostic tools. Inaccurate diagnosis results in patients failing to receive needed treatment as well as an overuse of malaria drugs which could contribute to the emergence of drug resistant strains. Currently, the most accurate diagnostic approach requires a trained technician to count the infected cells in a blood sample under a microscope, which is impractical for low-resource regions. Microfluidic devices have shown great potential for cell sorting applications. Such devices can have high selectivity and sensitivity while still being relatively inexpensive to produce. Ms. Sarah Mcfaul is utilizing microfluidics to construct an automated malaria diagnostic test that will be available as a small portable device, requiring no special training to use. Ideally, this automated diagnostic tool will provide sensitivity and quantitative results equal to microscopy, and will also be inexpensively manufactured in order to be accessible to low-resource regions where malaria is a serious threat. Not only will such a device aid in diagnosing malaria, but it will also track the effectiveness of malaria treatments over time in individual patients, enabling clinics can make the best use of their anti-malarial drugs. This in turn will help to lower the number of deaths from malaria and slow the emergence of drug-resistant strains of this deadly parasite.