Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by parasitic protozoans belonging to the Plasmodium species (spp.). It is one of the deadliest diseases claiming half a million deaths annually and its elimination is one of the aims declared on the UN Millennium Development Goals. The worldwide reduction of malaria prevalence raises the need for highly accurate diagnostic tools in order to treat the remaining cases. Moreover, due to the increase of people mobility worldwide, malaria diagnosis is also of extreme importance for developed countries as shown by recent increase of malaria-imported cases. Human malaria is caused by five Plasmodium species, each requiring specific treatment and intervention measures for disease control. The distribution of species prevalence within each affected region varies geographically and temporally. The clear identification of all species would allow to understand the intervention needs for malaria endemic locations. Currently, there is a lack of technologies for rapid diagnostics of malaria, addressing the diversity of malaria infections. Therefore, a device capable to detect and identify the all Plasmodium species is extremely useful for future field applications worldwide.
Here, we propose the development of the next generation of rapid diagnostic test for malaria, using a multiplex disposable graphene DNA based sensor device, to be the first distinguishing within all the five Plasmodium species. When compared to the state of the art, our project will:a) increase the accuracy of diagnosis of malaria through the discriminative nature of DNA together with the sensory properties of graphene; b) develop a sensing device with high sensitivity, crucial for the diagnosis of asymptomatic malaria; c) allow for the multiplex diagnosis of all malaria species that infect Humans in a single droplet of unprocessed biological samples (saliva, urine); d) take advantage of the high stability of graphene with regard to temperature and humidity which are crucial for applications in tropical settings; e) allow a less expensive, faster and user friendly diagnosis of malaria, when compared to standard DNA analysis procedures, without need for specialised personnel.
This proposal will contribute to the development of a novel and cost-effective point-of-care test, through the innovative application of novel graphene-based technologies addressed to ensure an early and rapid detection of malaria. The tool will be field-friendly allowing it to be implemented in resource-limited settings. Additionally, this detection strategy can be extended to other infectious agents increasing its potential. Overall, it is expected to bring considerable advances in the quality and reliability of patient care by enhanced monitoring and tracking of malaria transmission, through the early, discriminative, accurate and affordable diagnosis of malaria infections, which will pave the way for personalised medicine and, ultimately, malaria elimination.