NYU College of Dentistry Professor Dr. Daniel Malamud is teaming up with the Malaria Institute at Macha, Zambia, to develop a rapid test for signs of malaria infection in saliva, thanks to a $100,000 Grand Challenge Award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Malaria is a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills as many as three million people a year. The Malaria Institute's Scientific Director, Dr. Sungano Mharakurwa, will work with Dr. Malamud to transfer an existing laboratory test for malaria infection to a microfluidic lab-on-a-chip - a device that can detect the presence of the parasite's DNA on a glass chip less than four centimeters wide.
"Saliva samples will be collected from the mouth with a swab - a less invasive alternative to drawing blood," explained Dr. Malamud, a Professor of Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology and Director of the HIV/AIDS research program at NYU.
The standard blood test for malaria requires samples to be sent to a laboratory for lengthy analysis. The portable lab-on-a-chip, by contrast, is designed to identify signs of malaria infection - even if there are no symptoms of the disease - in less than one hour. The adoption of this technology would enable public health officials to expand the number of people being tested for malaria infection in remote rural areas, and to begin treating those who are infected before they develop symptoms of the disease.
Drs. Malamud and Mharakurwa will use the lab-on-a-chip to test 270 rural villagers for malaria infection in an area of Zambia where large numbers of malaria cases have been reported. All subjects testing positive will be treated with medication. Additional testing involving a larger number of human subjects will be conducted in subsequent phases of the research.
Dr. Malamud's coinvestigators include Dr. Eran Geva, a Junior Research Scientist in Basic Science & Craniofacial Biology, and Dr. Cheryl Barber, an Associate Research Scientist in Epidemiology & Health Promotion, both at the College of Dentistry.