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EU Research

New diagnostic tool for malaria


An EU-funded research project aims to start testing a new diagnostic tool for malaria one year ahead of schedule. The pioneering smartphone-like device uses cutting-edge nanotechnology to detect not only the malaria infection but also any drug resistance from a pinprick of blood, taking just 15 minutes. The Nanomal project partners say if field trials later this year are successful the device could be deployed in developing countries from 2015.

European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "Half the World´s population is at risk from malaria. Rapid and accurate diagnosis is essential to fight the disease as are new vaccines, drugs and methods to control its spread. That is why since 2002 the EU has invested more than €209 million in malaria research."

The €5.2 million Nanomal project is led by St George’s, University of London, which is working with UK-based handheld diagnostics and DNA sequencing specialist QuantuMDx Group and teams at the University of Tuebingen in Germany and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

The project, supported with €4 million in funding from the EU´s seventh research framework programme, was set up in response to increasing signs that the malaria parasite is mutating to resist the most powerful classes of anti-malaria drug combination therapies that include artemisinins as a component.

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2010, an estimated 219 million malaria cases occurred globally and the disease killed about 660 000 people, mostly children under five years of age.

Since 2002 the EU has invested more than €209 million in 87 research projects into the disease and how to control it. In addition, through its partnership with sub-Saharan Africa (the EDCTP initiative), the EU is supporting 32 clinical trials into new treatments with some €50 million.

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