Introducing the first non-blood malaria test
In a nutshell
|Resilience Award||2nd Runner-up 2019|
|Sustainable Development Goal||Good Health and Well-Being|
Malaria is one of the world’s deadliest and most underdiagnosed diseases. According to the World Health Organisation, 216 million cases and 445 000 deaths are registered annually, 90% of them in Africa and more than half in African children under 5.
To be diagnosed, people living in malaria-endemic areas who develop a fever – the earliest symptom of the disease – must travel to a brick-and-mortar clinic for a malaria blood test. For most, this is not an option because the nearest health centre is simply too far away. Many others are discouraged by the cost of the trip and by the wait of up to one day for a result. Also, poorly resourced health facilities struggle to offer blood-based malaria testing due to its cost and the skills required to perform it. Many people therefore don’t get tested and manage their fevers based on guesswork alone.
The biotech start-up Fyodor Biotechnologies has developed an innovative solution to address these barriers to diagnosis. Its Urine Malaria Test (UMT) is the first non-invasive alternative to blood-based diagnostics that can be obtained without a prescription from a pharmacy and administered anywhere, including at home. Sold at a wholesale cost of USD 1.50, this dipstick test uses novel recombinant monoclonal antibodies to detect parasite proteins from the most common type of malaria, plasmodium falciparum, in the urine of patients with fever.
The testing process is simple: the user dips the UMT strip in a container in which a urine sample has been collected, lets it stand for 25 minutes and reads the result. Two lines across the strip indicate malaria, while one line indicates no malaria. Although the test sometimes gives a false negative or false positive result, its overall accuracy exceeds the World Health Organisation standard of 75%, putting it on par with the commercially available blood-based rapid test kits commonly used in low-resource settings. The UMT is also particularly good at detecting malaria in children under 5, who are at greatest risk of dying from the disease without timely treatment.
Goals and expected impact
During its collaboration with the Swiss Re Foundation, Fyodor accomplished the following objectives in Nigeria:
- Raised public awareness of the risk of malaria and of proper management of suspected cases through confirmatory testing using the UMT
- Implemented behavioural change communications and campaigns after conducting customer surveys to better understand the UMT’s market acceptance, adoption and value proposition
- Created awareness and delivered marketing and policy outcomes that have facilitated the UMT’s availability in rural and urban areas through strategic partnerships with patent medicine vendors, pharmacies, local foundations and government
- Facilitated the integration of the UMT in Nigeria’s National Guidelines for Diagnosis & Treatment of Malaria – the national guidebook for malaria case management.
These milestones have paved the way to larger procurements from multilateral donors and the public sector for scaled UMT deployment in primary healthcare centres, particularly in rural communities.