The MULTIMAL research project is developing a small device that can be used to rapidly identify malaria parasites using saliva samples, without the need for lab equipment. MULTIMAL is one of eight projects exploring new uses for graphene with support from ATTRACT, a €20 million EU-funded, CERN-led consortium, which has awarded 170 grants worth €100,000 each for one-year proof-of-concept technology projects.
Today’s portable malaria testing kits are “just above flipping a coin,” because they are right only 60 percent of the time, says MULTIMAL principal investigator Jérôme Bôrme. The disease, which the World Health Organisation says killed 435,000 people in 2017 (nearly all of them in Africa), is caused by five species of parasite that can be easily identified in a lab. But treating the disease in remote towns and villages is difficult because of the lack of reliable portable testing kits, explains Bôrme, MULTIMAL’s principal investigator and staff researcher at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory in Portugal, which runs MULTIMAL in collaboration with the University of Minho.