In the fight against this disease, early diagnosis is fundamental; therefore, the World Health Organization continues to urge the development of new rapid diagnostic tests that can be used in endemic areas. Unlike the other tests currently available, TMek does not exploit a chemical mechanism (identification of a DNA molecule or an antigen linked to the proliferation of plasmodium) but a physical one, linked to the variation of the magnetic properties of infected red blood cells that, due to the presence of hemozoin, can be separated in an appropriate magnetic field. TMek, therefore, uses a microchip in which magnetic micro-concentrators are made with electrodes on top, thus allowing the capture and quantification of infected blood cells through an electrical measurement. TMek was first tested in Cameroon in April 2019 with decidedly promising results.
The main innovative features of TMek are
– Ability to quantify the concentration of parasites, useful to identify the stage of the disease and follow the patient in the treatment phase. The rapid diagnostic tests currently used only give an indication of the presence/absence of parasites.
–High sensitivity (up to 10 parasites per microliter of blood) in a test that takes only 10 minutes. Current rapid diagnostic tests have a detection limit of 200 parasites per microliter and a duration of 15-20 minutes.
– Absence of false negatives (the risk of a malaria patient being judged healthy is very low).
– Ability to distinguish the presence of parasites in the asexual phase (acute phase of the disease) and the sexual phase (after the disease, typically in healthy carriers). This constitutes a unique feature for rapid malaria testing and opens the door to the use of TMek for healthy carrier screening and subsequent treatment to block transmission of the infection.
TMek is a project with a social purpose and is protected by "social" patents, filed to ensure ethical use of any proceeds from the exploitation of intellectual property. The inventors have waived their rights in favor of funding research projects with a social purpose.
Donate to ensure the ethical development of TMek and create a unique diagnostic tool in the fight against malaria.
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