Aussie scientists to trial "ground-breaking" malaria breath test

May 12, 2016 6:23 am 

CANBERRA, May 11 — Australian scientists will soon begin trialing a ground-breaking malaria "breath test", which would allow doctors to quickly determine whether or not a patient is infected with the disease.

The CSIRO announced on Wednesday that a USD1-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will fast-track the testing, which will take place in a variety of climates and conditions around the world.

Over the next 18 months, a research team from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will undertake the field tests in a number of malaria-affected regions, including Malawi and Sudan in Africa, as well as in Bangladesh and the Malaysian province of Sabah.

The news on Wednesday follows the discovery last year that distinctive chemicals can be detected in the breath of malaria-infected patients, making it quicker and easier to diagnose the disease.

On the same day, research group leader Dr. Stephen Trowell said the funding generously given to the CSIRO by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation could eventually result in an 'over the counter' malaria test, which would allow for cheaper diagnoses and, in turn, cheaper treatments.

"Our initial research really opened our eyes to the potential for a new test, because the chemicals that we found in the breath of patients could be detected at the very early stages of infection," Trowell said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Thanks to this new funding from the Gates Foundation, we can now test the accuracy and effectiveness of the breath markers under real world conditions.

"If this phase of the research pans out, we intend to move onto developing a simple, painless and cheap breath test to help identify people who have malaria but don't know it.

"This would enable better targeting of treatments to stop transmission of the disease."

Under the trial, those suspected to be infected with malaria will be able to provide a breath sample to researchers, who will then transport the sample tubes to either Canberra or St Louis, USA for chemical and statistical analysis.

Some "control" patients – or those who are not suspected to have the malaria disease – will also be asked to provide a sample for comparison.

The CSIRO said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was committed to developing tests for malaria, as they could play a "significant role" in future disease eradication campaigns. (PNA/Xinhua)



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