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Malaria microchip welcomed

24th April 2009

A team working at Glasgow University say they have made a microchip which can quickly discover the presence of malaria in blood samples.

malaria2

The Health Protection Agency study placed blood in a microchip in order to identify malaria strains.

The team found 6,753 cases of falciparum malaria diagnosed between 2002 and 2006. A large proportion of those cases came from travellers who went to West Africa to see relatives and friends.

A study released in 2008 found that unprecedented numbers of people are being diagnosed with the most serious type of the disease after going abroad.

Malarial symptoms are similar to flu, but are often undetected until a person is dangerously unwell.

Project leader Dr Lisa Ranford-Cartwright said: "The current way of diagnosing is using a blood smear on a slide and examining it on a microscope."

"That will take a good microscopist a good hour to reach a diagnosis, it's extremely difficult to make that diagnosis accurately."

Doctors have reacted favourably to the news, as many people travel abroad without getting the proper medication needed to treat the disease.

Dr Heather Ferguson, a malaria researcher, caught the disease in southern Kenya and it was only found by accident when she gave a blood sample.

She said: "Had I not been diagnosed at that moment and caught it within the next 24 hours all those millions of parasites would have replicated one more time, making eight times as many as there had been before, which could very easily have been lethal."

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