Testing for malaria with magnets

Scientists develop an accurate, cheap malaria test using magnets.

A team of scientists in Singapore have developed a new test for malaria using magnets, raising hopes of a cheaper and more effective diagnostic test for the potentially life threatening disease.

In a paper written by the group from Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, the scientists outlined their new technique of detecting traces of malaria in the blood of a patient with a magnet rather than the dye traditionally used to diagnose the disease.

Donhee Ham, a professor of electrical engineering at Harvard University, explained: “The new technique uses a significantly smaller blood sample to traditional blood-smear methods, and is more sensitive and less error-prone.”

While the test is not yet ready to be rolled out for wider use, the scientists stressed that results show the technique has “real potential” and could offer individual diagnostic tests for less than five pence.

More tests and trials are to be conducted to further develop the technique, and the scientists are establishing a company to ensure the magnet technology will be available at an affordable price.