Makerere student invents bloodless malaria test, wins Africa prize

Brian Gitta was inspired to develop the device, called Matibabu, after three blood tests failed to diagnose his malaria

LONDON: Brian Gitta, a Makerere student was crowned winner of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for coding a device which tests for malaria without drawing blood.

Gitta took on the initiative to develop the device, called Matibabu, after blood tests failed to diagnose his own malaria.

Professor Barnabas Nawangwe the Makerere University Vice Chancellorpraised Gitta for the idea saying he has set the pace in solving many of Africa’s great problems among them including malaria.

“Mr Braian Gitta started working on “Matibabu” at Makerere University as a first year student of Bsc. Computer science with his team code 8. This is very important to see young researchers setting remarkable trends in solving Africa’s problems. Congratulations Brian!” the vice chancellor twitted on his official twitter account congratulating Gitta for the remarkable trends.

The diagnosis is ready to be shared to a mobile phone in a minute. Mr Shafik Ssekitto who is part of the Matibabu team said, ” Brian [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?”

Matibabu, which means “treatment” in Swahili, 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.

The majority of global deaths caused by malaria usually transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

A child suffering from malaria lies on a bed at the hospital. Malaria affects countries in the sub-Saharan Africa (AFP PHOTO)

The team believes the device can one day be used as a way to better detect malaria across the continent.

It is “not an easy journey because you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the device is safe for human use”, Ssekitto added 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 was awarded £25,000 ($33,000) in prize money, “The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities which are what we need most at the moment,” Mr Gitta said in a statement.




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