World Malaria Day: Gold speeds up malaria diagnosis
It’s hard to imagine that gold is more than a rich person’s trinket and actually plays a role in healthcare.
But tiny nano-particles of gold are being used in rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) that can identify malaria in 20 minutes, according to the World Gold Council.
Malaria kills more than 660,000 people every year according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in part due to poor diagnosis.
‘RDTs are cheap, costing no more than $1 per test, and are perfect for use in the often harsh conditions commonly found in malaria zones around the world,’ says Dr Trevor Keel, Head of Technology at the World Gold Council.
‘In 2011, WHO estimated 155 million RDTs were sold for malaria diagnosis, making this an incredibly important use of gold.’
The gold in the rapid tests turns crimson if malaria is present in the patient’s blood sample.
Dr David Bell from the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) said: ‘Most people who die of infectious diseases in malaria affected countries do so because they are given the wrong medicine, or the right medicine too late. Senegal saved over a million dollars-worth of antimalarial drugs in the first few years after introducing the tests.’
The RDTs are being used in Uganda, which has a very high burden of malaria. Dr Henry Katamba, from the Ugandan Ministry of Health, said the use of the tests enabled healthworkers to immediately confirm malaria cases, instead of treating symptomatically with both anti-malarial agents and antibiotics.