The samples were provided by the Parasitological and Entomology Laboratory of the Hospital das Clinicas at the University of Campinas (Unicamp) in Brazil.

The current cost of production for the test is estimated at USD 0.50, according to Lauro Tatsuo Kubota, from the Chemical Institute of Unicamp, and lead author of the study that describes the technology, published in the journal Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical.

“If production increases, its cost could be lowered,” Tatsuo told the science and development Internet newsletter SciDev.Net.

Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus that draw blood contaminated with Plasmodium parasites. Its initial symptoms are similar across all malaria types (fever, chilling, headache and body aches), but the disease may become more severe depending on the causative agent.

Although the P. falciparum parasite is prevalent in Africa, it also occurs in 20 Latin American countries, particularly in Brazil, and is estimated to cause six deaths per 100,000 people every year across the region.

Osvaldo Novais de Oliveira, from the São Carlos Institute of Physics at the University of São Paulo, says the bio-sensor could have a high social impact by improving diagnosis, especially in areas far from urban centres.

“Early diagnosis of malaria is vital in order to increase the chances of treating infected people,” de Oliveira tolds SciDev.Net.