New diagnostic technology ‘Ready to Beat Malaria’
The theme for World Malaria Day 2018 is ‘Ready to Beat Malaria’. The World Health Organisation has highlighted the remarkable progress achieved in tackling one of humanity’s oldest diseases, but also raises concerns that the global response to malaria is at a crossroads.
According to WHO, after an unprecedented period of success in malaria control, progress has stalled.
Countries with ongoing transmission are increasingly falling into one of two categories: those moving towards elimination, and those with a high burden of the disease that have reported significant increases in malaria cases. Without urgent action, the major gains in the fight against malaria is under threat.
Polwart revealed that next generation diagnostic technologies hold novel solutions to testing, monitoring and treating diseases like malaria, which often predominantly affect the most remote and poorest communities.
Dr Polwart said: “Although great strides have been made in treating and tackling malaria across the globe, progress has stalled and we risk losing valuable ground gained in the fight against this disease.
“Technology holds the key to new approaches that could help to rebalance the scales. It’s vital that this potential is explored and that we look to new technologies which will enable us to support and protect our most vulnerable communities.
“Traditional methods of testing for malaria are challenging in communities which lack basic medical infrastructure, but technology has the potential to redefine what is possible and provide new hope in the battle to tackle this infectious disease.
“Fast, accurate diagnosis is a crucial first step, and smartphone-enabled point of care testing (POCT) including other breakthrough technologies could fundamentally redesign the way we monitor, test and treat outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, particularly in areas with limited public health infrastructure.”
Novarum has created a software solution that can transform a smartphone into a diagnostic test reader. The company’s pioneering software solution is just one example where technology creates a pathway to overcome the barriers presented by geography, user demographic and lack of public health infrastructure.
Using the Novarum smartphone technology, technicians operating in the field can quickly and easily perform malaria tests on at-risk groups, using just a mobile phone. The test is then read using an intuitive mobile app interface which provides results of lab-quality, which can subsequently be shared online to a secure data portal.
By exploiting the intuitive user-experience on mobile devices, minimal training is required and end-users are guided through the entire testing workflow with confidence in the resulting outcome.
Sharing data via a mobile ecosystem like this helps to monitor the spread of infectious disease and identifies ‘hot spots’ where malaria outbreaks are rife and communities are in need of more targeted medical resource. This technology also has the potential to help patients monitor their own condition on a regular basis.
Over 445,000 people died from malaria in 2016, with sub-Saharan Africa carrying 80% of the global malaria burden. Inaccessible communities without access to basic clinical infrastructure are most at risk and without fast, accurate diagnosis, this curable disease becomes a deadly threat.