A 24-year old Ugandan engineer Brian Gitta and his team have been awarded the $33,000 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation for their invention of a bloodless malaria test called ‘Matibabu’; (Swahili for ‘treatment’).
Prior to the invention of Matibabu, small blood samples taken from suspected patients in hospitals or pharmacies were used to test for malaria but with the device developed by Brian Gitta and his team, there is no need for pricking again.
How Matibabu works
When a person is infected, the malaria parasite takes over a vacuole of the red blood cells and significantly remodels it.
For Matibabu to work, it is clipped onto a person’s finger and using light and magnetism, a red beam of light scans the finger for changes in colour, shape and concentration of the red blood cells. A result is produced within a minute and sent to a mobile phone linked to the device.
Matibabu is low cost, reusable and because the procedure is non-invasive, does not require specialist training.
The menace of malaria in Africa
Malaria alone costs Africa 1.3% of its GDP and most of the children under five years of age who die every day because of malaria are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The disease infects some 300 million to 600 million every year around the world, according to Unicef. But Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for 90% of the world’s 580,000 annual malaria deaths.
However, malaria deaths in Africa have significantly been reduced by 66% since the turn of the century due to series of interventions such as freely distributed treated bed nets and increased funding for the purchase of improved medicines.
Two African countries (Morocco and Egypt) have already been declared malaria-free and six more (South Africa, eSwatini, Botswana, Comoros, Algeria and Cape Verde) are on course to eliminate the disease by 2020.
Just like Matibabu, Quartz Africa reports that African scientists and engineers have been at the forefront of innovations and discoveries to consign malaria to history. In 2015, scientists in Nigeria successfully developed a product to test a patient’s urine for malaria, rather than a blood test.
Also, scientists at the University of Cape Town found a compound that has the potential to block human transmission of the malaria parasite and in Burkina Faso, a low-cost mosquito-repelling soap made from natural herbs has also been developed.
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Legit.ng previously reported that four students of Whitesands Schools, Lekki emerged winners of a category in the Conrad Foundation Spirit of Innovation Challenge.
Afolabi Williams, Olubusiyi Famobiwo, Menashi Mordi and Osagumwenro Naaman Ugbo, all junior secondary school students, won the Smoke-Free World category of the competition.
The finals of the Spirit of Innovation Challenge was held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida, US.
They were the only representatives from Nigeria and Africa in the finals. The students also received the KSCVC Good Citizen award at the competition.
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