Malaria diagnosis in seconds by modified NMR technique

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  • Published: Aug 31, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: NMR Knowledge Base
thumbnail image: Malaria diagnosis in seconds by modified NMR technique

A scaled down version of NMR that uses magnetic resonance relaxometry has been used to diagnose the presence of the malarial parasite in blood within 5 minutes, leading the way to an inexpensive point-of-care test.

It is based on the detection of hemozoin, a metabolite of Plasmodium species that is present in all stages of infection and in all strains of malaria that infect humans. Using a portable benchtop system, an international team of scientists showed that the presence of hemozoin changes the iron in red blood cells from ferrous to ferric, modifying the magnetic susceptibility and the magnetic resonance relaxation of neighbouring protons.

Writing in Nature Medicine, they showed how this natural biomarker eliminates the need for any labels but the technique is still very sensitive, detecting fewer than 10 parasites in less than 10 µL of whole blood.

Coupled with the minimal amount of sample preparation, the inexpensive instrumentation and the cost per assay of less than 10 cents, the method appears well-placed to become an alternative to traditional malaria testing. The MRR system, including the magnets, can be incorporated onto a chip to allow easy transport within hospitals for point-of-care analysis.

The good correlation between the infected red blood cell load and the magnetic susceptibility index will permit the severity of infection to be estimated.

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