Researchers design bloodless solution to test for malaria

November 6, 2020

Researchers at Rice University in Texas, US, have engineered a new bandage-like microneedle patch that can analyse and detect key markers of malaria. The life-threatening disease caused by parasites is responsible for hundreds of thousands of global deaths each year; testing for the disease with the microneedle patch will fortunately not draw blood,unlike regular testing which involves blood sampling and a trained medical eye to reach a diagnosis.

The researchers added that the patch could be tailored to search for biomarkers of other diseases as well, including potentially COVID-19.

Presently, the pain-free patch is designed to use a set of 16 tiny needles – measuring just 375 microns wide – to gently pierce the skin and subtly draw in dermal interstitial fluid. Interstitial fluid surrounds all cells and may contain certain biomarkers that reveal the presence of a disease, such as malaria.

The patch also features a test strip for analysing the drawn fluid; the strip contains antibodies that react in the presence of these biomarkers and will deliver a result in 20 minutes via red lines on the strip’s exposed surface, indicating a positive or negative result.

“[The patch] doesn’t feel painful at all compared to a finger prick or a blood draw; it’s even less painful than getting a splinter,” said Mechanical engineer Peter Lillehoj. “I would say it feels like putting tape on your skin and then peeling it off.”

Estimated to cost around US$1 apiece if produced in bulk, the patches are a promising solution for malaria testing, especially in developed regions, where expert service(s) in health care may not be as widely available.


Category: Education, Features

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