The $33,000 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has been awarded to a 24-year old Ugandan engineer for his invention of a bloodless malaria test: Matibabu (meaning ‘treatment’ in Swahilo).
Malaria infects some 300 million to 600 million every year around the world, according to Unicef, and Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for 90% of the world’s 580,000 annual malaria deaths. The rapid diagnosis of the disease is very powerful as it contributes to reducing malaria deaths. Thanks to Brian Gitta, blood samples are no longer required from suspected patients to test for malaria.
The Matibabu the device that detects malaria
Matibabu is a low cost reusable device that clips onto a patient’s finger, requiring no specialist expertise to operate. “When a person is infected, the malaria parasite takes over a vacuole of the red blood cells and significantly remodels it”. The device is “clipped onto a person’s finger and using light and magnetism, a red beam of light scans the finger for changes in colour, shape and concentration of the red blood cells. A result is produced within a minute and sent to a mobile phone linked to the device. ”
Other African scientists at the forefront of malaria innovations
- “In 2015, scientists in Nigeria successfully developed a product to test a patient’s urine for malaria, rather than blood test.”
- “Scientists at the University of Cape Town found a compound that has the potential to block human transmission of the malaria parasite.”
- “In Burkina Faso, a low cost mosquito-repelling soap made from natural herbs has also been developed.”
- “In Zanzibar, a team of locals and foreigners are using drones to map mosquito breeding areas and to use that information to help in the efficient use of larvicide to neutralise them.”
The African Award for Engineering Innovation
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation. It encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers, from all disciplines, to develop innovations that address crucial problems in their communities. Brian Gitta is the youngest laureate of the African Award for Engineering Innovation.