Quick blood test for malaria

August 1, 2014, Siemens
Siemens is working on a procedure that would allow blood to be routinely tested for malaria. Scientists from the research department Corporate Technology (CT) have now developed a method that can detect malaria using information from a standard blood test. The picture shows blood samples in a ADVIA lab automation.

Siemens is working on a procedure that would allow blood to be routinely tested for malaria. Physicians normally diagnose the tropical disease by using a microscope to search for parasites in blood samples. The problem is that practically every instance of fever in countries where the disease is common is treated with antimalarial drugs, despite the fact that doctors don't even know if the patient is afflicted with malaria. Conversely, doctors in countries where malaria is rare often don't associate their patients' symptoms with the tropical fever and therefore don't make the correct diagnosis. As reported in the Siemens research magazine Pictures of the Future, scientists from Siemens' research department Corporate Technology (CT) have now developed a method that can detect malaria using information from a standard blood test. The scientists' goal is to implement the new procedure in Siemens' ADVIA 2010 hematology system, which is now being used in many hospitals around the world.

Malaria is one of the world's most devastating tropical diseases. According to the World Health Organization, some 200 million people became afflicted in 2012, and more than 600,000 people died. It's difficult to make a proper diagnosis because the symptoms can have many different causes. Medical lab technicians also need to have a lot of experience to identify malaria parasites under a microscope. Experts say that only around ten percent of actual cases worldwide are diagnosed as such. Being able to detect the disease through a test would improve the situation. The problem up until now was that although malaria does change certain blood attributes, such as the number of platelets, the same is also true of other illnesses.

The idea was to identify a malaria affliction on the basis of a distinct combination of several different blood attributes. Together with colleagues from Siemens Healthcare, CT researchers analyzed anonymous blood data from samples taken from both healthy individuals and malaria patients. They initially selected parameters that might potentially be related to malaria from the hundreds of measurement values produced by the ADVIA system. They then used statistical methods to search for distinct blood value patterns in the samples taken from malaria patients. In this manner, they developed a formula for searching for these "malaria patterns" in blood sample data.

Their technique can also be adapted to different situations. For example, sometimes it's important to be able to detect malaria even if the number of parasites present in blood is very low - i.e. the triggers must be very sensitive. In other situations, doctors want to be very certain they're making the right diagnosis in order to avoid false alarms. The new formula for malaria diagnosis performs very well with respect to both sensitivity and specificity.

The formula is based on the blood values associated with the most common form of malaria. The researchers are further developing their method in order to be able to distinguish between the seven different types of and to test how well their method diagnoses each of them. They are also analyzing additional blood data sets from different regions around the world with the goal of making their procedure even more robust.

Explore further: How the immune system prevents repeated malaria fever episodes in highly exposed children

Related Stories

How the immune system prevents repeated malaria fever episodes in highly exposed children

April 17, 2014
Children in Mali (and many other regions where malaria is common) are infected with malaria parasites more than 100 times a year, but they get sick with malaria fever only a few times. To understand how the immune system ...

GSK asks European regulator to OK malaria shot

July 24, 2014
(AP)—Pharma giant GSK said Thursday it is submitting its malaria vaccine for regulatory approval to the European Medicines Agency.

Increasing malarial drug resistance a growing threat

July 31, 2014
(HealthDay)—The parasite that causes malaria is growing increasingly resistant to the drugs commonly used to fight it, according to new surveillance reports. But several new drugs are in development, and at least one in ...

Proteomics discovers link between muscle damage and cerebral malaria

April 17, 2014
Malaria-related complications remain a major cause of death for children in many parts of the world. Why some children develop these complications while others don't is still not understood.

Animal vaccines should guide malaria research

July 7, 2014
Research into vaccines for malaria in humans should be guided by the success shown in producing effective vaccines for malaria-like diseases in animals, according to a University of Adelaide study.

Recommended for you

Don't hold your nose and close your mouth when you sneeze, doctors warn

January 15, 2018
Pinching your nose while clamping your mouth shut to contain a forceful sneeze isn't a good idea, warn doctors in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

New antifungal provides hope in fight against superbugs

January 12, 2018
Microscopic yeast have been wreaking havoc in hospitals around the world—creeping into catheters, ventilator tubes, and IV lines—and causing deadly invasive infection. One culprit species, Candida auris, is resistant ...

Dengue takes low and slow approach to replication

January 11, 2018
A new study reveals how dengue virus manages to reproduce itself in an infected person without triggering the body's normal defenses. Duke researchers report that dengue pulls off this hoax by co-opting a specialized structure ...

Different strains of same bacteria trigger widely varying immune responses

January 11, 2018
Genetic differences between different strains of the same pathogenic bacterial species appear to result in widely varying immune system responses, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Human protein may aid neuron invasion by virus that causes hand, foot, and mouth disease

January 11, 2018
A human protein known as prohibitin may play a significant role in infection of the nervous system by EV71, one of several viruses that can cause hand, foot, and mouth disease. Issac Too of the National University of Singapore ...

Untangling how Epstein-Barr virus infects cells

January 11, 2018
A team led by scientists at Northwestern Medicine has discovered a new epithelial receptor for Epstein-Barr virus, according to a study published recently in Nature Microbiology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.