Finland base health firm, Aqsense is partnering the Ghana health service to undertake a rapid malaria testing drive using saliva. The device has created a new non-invasive screening test to detect malaria by using saliva samples.
The new diagnostic method is expected to replace commonly used blood tests that require skin pricks and are considered less effective and reliable. Blood tests also require infrastructure and trained staff.
According to Aqsense, the new test requires spitting into a tube and can be performed outside clinical settings.
The saliva test is designed to identify an essential protein required by Plasmodium falciparum parasites for survival. This is intended to address the issue of acquired mutation of the malaria parasite.
It detects female parasites circulating in an infected person who does not display any symptoms but has the parasite and could potentially develop the disease within a week.
Early detection of malaria is expected to enable early treatment as well as prevention and further transmission of the disease.
The Aqsense team led by CEO and co-founder of the company, Timo Teimonen are in the country to hold talks with the Noguchi memorial institute for medical research and the food and drugs authority on ways to have the method formally introduced in Ghana. He revealed plans are underway to introduce the high tech testing method in Ghana.
Head of Laboratory of Aqsense Health, Wilhelmina Lehti, explained how the testing is done and explained how the method is reliable and cost effective.
“Malaria is like a big iceberg that we’ve always chipped away at on top, above the water line.
“But it’s the bottom of the iceberg, this reservoir for transmission that we don’t understand because it’s a population that, until now, we could not see. This test takes us below that water line, so we can see how big the reservoir is.”
Internationally, malaria is responsible for approximately 1-3 million deaths per year. Of these deaths, the overwhelming majority are in children aged 5 years or younger, and 80-90% of the deaths each year are in rural sub-Saharan
Malaria is the world’s fourth leading cause of death in children younger than age 5 years. With 2% of global malaria cases and 3% of deaths, Ghana is among the 15 highest burden malaria countries in the world.
Between 2016–2019, however, Ghana made significant progress in malaria control – cases decreased by 32% (from 237 cases per 1000 of the population at risk to 161 cases), and deaths decreased 7% (from 0.4 per 1000 of the population at risk to 0.37).
Chief Executive officer of Equity Health Insurance, Elton Afari has been explaining how beneficial this new testing technology will be and the plans to tap into the opportunity to improve healthcare in the country. ‘our desire is to work towards bringing this testing kit to Ghana and help address the impact of malaria on the populace and we are optimistic this product will help deal with malaria especially in the rural areas where access to laboratory services is hard to come by’ he added.