A smartphone app with a revolutionary technique to diagnose malaria has been launched in Uganda.
Matibabu is an app for Windows Phone that works with a custom piece of hardware called a Matiscope. The Matiscope is a finger clamp with a built-in infrared light source and sensor that attaches to the phone.
Matibabu team member Josiah Kavuma explained: “The idea basically works with red light. Light is triggered into the skin to reach the red blood cells. Light is used to determine the state of the red blood cells to determine one’s malaria status.”
The test takes less than two minutes and the results are stored in the user’s Microsoft Skydrive account so they can share them with their doctor.
Matibabu – which takes its name from the Swahili word for medical clinic – represents a significant improvement in testing for malaria.
Ordinarily, malaria needs to be diagnosed by drawing and testing blood, which is not only painful but represents a significant expense for medical organisations.
The disease is particularly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90% of all malaria-related deaths occur, but medical coverage in the region is by no means comprehensive.
Matibabu is designed to provide a more affordable and accessible testing option with no pain involved, and the team believe it has the potential to reduce the socio-economic costs of malaria for 300 – 500 million people.
Early diagnosis would help to improve treatment, meaning the technology could have a significant role to play in the fight against malaria.
“Our vision is to see the solution being used all over the world to detect malaria cases early,” said Kavuma. “Hence early treatment will save many lives and many unborn babies as many mothers have had miscarriages because of malaria during pregnancy.”
The diagnosis technology was invented after Brian Gitta, a malaria sufferer and computer science student at Uganda’s Makerere University, decided to develop a better way to detect malaria.
“I hated the needles and kept thinking of ways people could be diagnosed without pain,” Gitta explained.
He teamed up with friends and fellow students Joshua Businge, Josiah Kavuma and Simon Lubambo, and together they developed the Matibabu.
Although not yet in mass production, the Matibabu has already attracted considerable attention. The team has won the Microsoft Innovation Cup and a USAID contest for innovations to help developing countries, and recently showcased the prototype at MakeTechX in Berlin, Germany.
Image courtesy of Sergio Sanchez.
Video via Matibabu’s blog.