Malaria is one of the leading causes of death in the world, and arguably one of the deadliest viruses out there. It can kill in just a few days after infection and is often hard to contain. But who would have thought that military missile technology could help with the fight against it?
Researchers at Monash University and the University of Melbourne have utilized the technology in the anti-tank Javelin missile detector (commonly used to detect enemy heat signatures) in tests to identify the early stages of malaria in the blood. The technique is based on Fourier Transform Infrared (FITR) spectroscopy, which provides information on how molecules vibrate. The malaria parasite that infects red blood cells has a unique signature in its fatty acids that make it easy to detect with the newly-applied technology.
“Our test detects malaria at its very early stages, so that doctors can stop the disease in its tracks before it takes hold and kills. We believe this sets the gold standard for malaria testing,” Associate Professor Wood said.
“There are some excellent tests that diagnose malaria. However, the sensitivity is limited and the best methods require hours of input from skilled microscopists, and that’s a problem in developing countries where malaria is most prevalent,” he said.
With malaria killing more than 1.2 million people a year, this technology will be able to diagnose the disease and prevent it without over-medicating or catching it before it’s too late.
While the technology is highly sensitive, it has its advantages. It doesn’t take an expert to detect it and this means more people can get the needed treatment as soon as possible, being that the early stages of malaria are hard to detect.
This technology was invented in the 90s to identify the enemy combatant on the battle field, and now it’s being used to identify the enemy virus in the human body.