Scientists turn to nanotechnology to reduce malaria deaths

28 September 2012

Posted by Satvir Bhullar

A new device that is intended to reduce the number of deaths caused by malaria has been unveiled by scientists in the UK.

The team from St George’s, University of London, revealed the affordable mobile device provides rapid diagnosis for patients through the use of nanotechnology principles.

With an estimated 800,000 people dying from malaria annually, new methods of identifying and treating the disease, carried by mosquitoes infected with malaria parasites, are vital.

The experts have also devised a means of detecting drug resistance, which could have significant ramifications when it comes to treating the disease, particularly as scientists have found signs that parasites are developing resistance to many drugs in parts of Asia and Africa.

Through the €5.2 million (£4million) Nanomal project, healthcare workers in remote parts of the world will be able to detect infection by malaria and whether parasites are resistant to drugs from blood samples using a gadget the same size as a mobile phone, potentially savings lives through the early and effective treatment of the disease.

Professor Sanjeev Krishna from St George’s said: “;New drug treatments take many years to develop, so the quickest and cheapest alternative is to optimise the use of current drugs."

Also in the UK capital, Professor Sunil Shaunak from Imperial College London is using nanotechnology to develop ways of manipulating the immune system in order to reduce the number of deaths caused by bacterial infections.

He recently explained that his work is drawing on new tools in the field to combat septic shock, where the patient's immune system overreacts to threats from dangerous microbe cells.

He pointed out that little work has been done to control excessive responses in patients to infections and he and his team are working with products of nanotechnology called dendrimers, which Professor Shaunuk believes could be used as drugs to interact with the body's immune system.

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