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Malaria Detection Requires Bleeding Heart

Photonics.com
Jun 2009
Jun. 4, 2009 — Malaria is a huge problem in tropical countries of the Third World. This is why some people have emphasized improving techniques for detecting the parasite that causes the disease, and yet a proven method for detecting the parasite was developed more than 100 years ago.

The problem is that it requires a microscope, and microscopes are expensive and require a trained operator. You're not going to find many fancy microscopes and sage microscopists in the savannahs of central Africa or in the jungles of Central America.

The other method is a rapid diagnostic test. Although the test doesn't always work (it can fail because of the heat and doesn't detect all variations of the parasite), it costs just a dollar per test. Problem is, some people in endemic countries live on less than a dollar per day. When writing about this topic in the past, I described methods that are hopefully going to be both effective and cost less money.

But what I am convinced of is that this is not really a technological problem, but rather an economic one. The proven technologies have been developed. What we really need is for kind people to come together and find a way to help financially support these technologies in developing countries.


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View more of David's blog entries here


GLOSSARY
microscope
An instrument consisting essentially of a tube 160 mm long, with an objective lens at the distant end and an eyepiece at the near end. The objective forms a real aerial image of the object in the focal plane of the eyepiece where it is observed by the eye. The overall magnifying power is equal to the linear magnification of the objective multiplied by the magnifying power of the eyepiece. The eyepiece can be replaced by a film to photograph the primary image, or a positive or negative relay...
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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