Boubacar Diallo

The blood tests are over. The digital revolution now makes it possible to diagnose … with a smartphone! A phone app that can diagnose malaria is the crazy bet of these four Ugandan computer science students at Makerere University (Kampala), reports IPS.

In 21 years, Brian Gitta has undergone so many blood tests that he developed a phobia of needles, says the article. During his last bout of malaria in December 2012, he must remain bedridden and imagine a “mobile medical center” that would provide a quick and painless diagnosis. As soon as he is cured, he works on this project and that is how the smartphone app Matibabu (which means “medical center” in Swahili) is born.

Malaria is a tropical disease transmitted by mosquitoes, says the site. IPS estimates that about 42% of the Ugandan population (34.5 million) are affected by the parasite. Despite a sharp drop in the number of deaths from malaria in Africa, between 70,000 and 100,000 people die each year in the country, according to figures from the NGO Malaria Consortium Uganda relayed by the article.

The application Matibabu can detect the parasite even before the onset of symptoms, says the site. The user inserts his finger in a custom-made device, the “matiscope”, connected to the smartphone, to examine his red blood cells, explains the article. Due to the difference in structure between infected cells and healthy cells, the application can detect malaria without taking blood, says IPS.

Another advantage of the application, according to the site: the results are sent directly into the Microsoft storage folders to be shared immediately with the patient’s doctor.

According to the director of a clinic in Kampala interviewed by IPS, this application will treat malaria at an early stage, before it can cause mental disorders or other sequels such as anemia. For pregnant women, particularly vulnerable to the disease, this will also prevent miscarriages.

The app is expected to hit the market within two years, predicts one of the creators. It will be free, but the matiscope will cost between 20 and 35 dollars, a significant sum for many Ugandans, announces the article. Especially since, as a pediatric expert requested by IPS reminds us, malaria affects many people in rural areas, who do not necessarily have access to smartphones and the Internet.

Source: Slate Africa

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