A student-professor team at Case Western Reserve University has invented a hand-held malaria detector that works on an unusual principle: Malaria parasites are stuffed with iron, so their innards can be magnetized.
The team, which has incorporated itself as the Disease Diagnostic Group, is seeking investors to pay for field tests to prove that its device works as well on the African front lines as it does in a Cleveland lab. Its pitch is that its battery-powered box, which costs $250 to make, can undercut the price of current chemical-based rapid test kits by at least 50 cents per test and pay for itself quickly. The company claims its test is far more accurate than the kits at detecting low-level infections.
The rapid kits, introduced in the last decade, have sped up malaria diagnoses in rural clinics with no trained microscopists, but they cost at least $1 each and expire in hot climates.