Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark have developed a new method that can diagnose malaria infections with very high sensitivity by measuring the activity of an enzyme called topoisomerase I from the Plasmodium parasite.
The team developed a microfluidics platform, called Rolling Circle-Enhanced Enzyme Activity Detection (REEAD), capable of measuring enzyme activity to make a malaria diagnosis from a single drop of blood or saliva.
“The ongoing fight against malaria is complicated by increasing problems with resistant Plasmodium parasites. In addition, several Plasmodium species (P. vivax and P. knowlesi) cannot be detected with the usual quick-test methods,” according to the Aarhus announcement. “The new REEAD-based method distinguishes itself from other quick-test methods because it can measure whether a given Plasmodium infection is resistant to drugs.”
The technology is also the only quick-test method that makes it possible to diagnose the less common malaria parasites such as P. ovale, P. knowlesi and P. malariae.
Researchers are hopeful that the method might eventually be used in low-resource areas without the need for specially trained personnel, expensive equipment, clean water or electricity. Additionally, the very small sample size requirements of the method make it suitable for large-scale screening projects.
The effort was led by Aarhus University’s Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Centre and Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics with supporting collaboration from the Aarhus University Hospital Department of Pathology and Department of Clinical Medicine, Duke University, University of Rome, University of St Andrews and University of Lyon.