Researchers at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) and Research Institute for Life and Health Sciences (ICVS) at the University of Minho in Portugal will develop a graphene-based device that allows the early diagnosis of malaria, in a fast and reliable way, and at an accessible cost.

Over the course of a year, both institutions will work to utilize the technology of graphene-based sensors, developed at INL.

The new device should be able to detect the five different strains of the Plasmodium parasite capable of infecting humans through non-invasive methods, by simply collecting a sample of saliva. The new rapid test resulting from this project will allow the analysis of the DNA of each of the strains and allow a precise diagnosis, taking advantage of the high sensitivity of graphene, in addition to detecting the presence of the disease, even in cases in which patients do not yet evidence symptoms, which is crucial for early treatment.

Another advantage of graphene is its high stability, which makes it particularly suitable for use in tropical environments, characterized by large variations in temperature and humidity, as well as the fact that it has a lower cost compared to the alternatives currently available for DNA analysis, in addition to not requiring the handling by specialized personnel. With all these features, the new device will be especially suitable for use in places with limited resources.

The new diagnostic technique may have the potential of being applied to the detection of other infectious agents.