MANILA - A team of researchers led by a Filipino-American scientist has invented a "saliva-based" contraption that "detects malaria before symptoms appear," potentially making diagnosis of the disease easier and more effective.
The "non-invasive spit test" simply requires individuals to provide saliva samples, instead of going to a clinic to have their blood drawn by a professional, University of Florida (UF) infectious diseases researcher Rhoel Dinglasan said.
"The diagnostic test detects female parasites circulating in an infected human who is asymptomatic but is carrying the parasite and likely to come down with malaria within a week," he said in news release on the UF website.
"In some areas of the world, the parasites have acquired a mutation and are therefore no longer detected by the blood-based tests," he said.
Dinglasan said the test detects "an essential protein the parasite needs for survival, which should avoid the problem of mutation and keep the test effective long-term," he added.
Dingsalan's team began working on the invention in 2014 after receiving funding from Microsoft founder Bill Gates' Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Filipino-American scientist worked with 24 researchers to develop the study and test its efficacy with over 300 children in Cameroon, Zambia and Sierra Leone.
Malaria, a deadly disease transmitted by mosquitoes, kills about 500,000 children annually, majority of whom are African children aged 5 and below, studies show.
"If we can identify a child before they get sick because there’s something in their saliva, if we get to them earlier, they can be cured well before they get the disease," Dinglasan said.