After three blood tests failed to diagnose his malaria, Brian Gitta, a 24-year-old Ugandan innovator is leading a team of innovators to develop the Matibabu, a medically non-invasive device that detects malaria in two minutes.
Transalted to mean ‘treatment’ in Swahili, Matibabu is the first device of its kind capable of diagnosing malaria without drawing any blood.
In 2018, Matibabu received international recognition after winning the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize. With this endorsement, Gitta, a teaching fellow at Young Disaster Resilience Leadership, a program that helps young people address conflict and disaster challenges in schools, communities, who previously served as a software developer at United Nations Population Fund is acting to bring the future of malaria control and possibly eradication forward.
The CEO of thinkIT Limited, aims to use Matibabu and other science-based innovations to help people adapt to survive climate change, which, according to a recent peer-reviewed research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is the cause of the upsurge in cases of malaria in Africa.
Gitta is looking at the possibility of spreading the Matibabu technology, which has the capacity to save millions of lives, by getting approvals for use in various countries.
Matibabu, clips onto a patient’s finger and does not require a specialist to operate. Its red beam can detect changes in the colour, shape and concentration of red blood cells, all of which are affected by malaria. Results are obtained within minutes.
The majority of global deaths caused by malaria – usually transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito – occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
Gitta and team are optimistic that Matibabu can revolutionize malaria diagnosis across the continent. But at the moment, they are working on an academic paper on their findings. Meanwhile, they have been approached by international researchers offering support, and are currently performing field trials on the device.
The prize, which was set up in 2014, provides support, funding, mentoring and business training to the winners, the Royal Academy of Engineering said in a statement.
Globally, 219 million people get malaria each year and 435,000 people die of the disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) over 90 per cent of these deaths are recorded in Africa.
In an interview featured in the Lancet, Gitta said, although malaria can be treated. He, however, stated that accurate diagnosis is essential, as the drugs
targeting the mosquito-borne parasite that causes the disease can harm people who don’t have it.
Gitta is hopeful that Matibabu which is currently under a clinical trial would not only save precious time for people with the disease, but also help track malaria around the world.