Ugandan wins Africa prize for bloodless malaria test

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

It all started with a failed blood diagnose Malaria test, when Brian Giita, a 24 Ugandan student and Inventor thought of authoring something that could test Malaria without having to use blood.

With a group of friends, the Computer Science students came up with a plan to start an invention hence the Matibabu device.

“[Gitta] brought up the idea: ‘Why can’t we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing a disease without having to prick somebody?” said Shafik Sekitto, who is part of the Matibabu team.

Matibabu is a Swahilli word that means “treatment”. The Matibabu works by clipping a patients finger on the device and its doesn’t 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.

“Matibabu is simply a game-changer,” Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation judge and Cameroonian technology entrepreneur, said in a statement.

“It’s a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development – in this case by improving healthcare.”

She adds, the majority of global deaths  are caused by malaria – usually transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Not an easy journey’

Giita and his team had to work over nights for this project to become a reality. Sekitti notes that the device had to pass through a number of regulators before they could avail it on the market.

It is “not an easy journey because you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the device is safe for human use”, he remarks.

In the meantime, the Matibabu team are currently writing an academic paper on their findings, and  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.

Mr Gitta has also been awarded £25,000 ($33,000) in prize money from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

“The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities – which is what we need most at the moment,” Mr Gitta said in a statement.