“At first the project started as a game, we were just friends do together something exciting,” says the 26-year-old Brian Gitta.
“But after about a year I said, hey guys, we have fun, but I think we can change lives with what we do.”
Brian is in conversation with the BBC just a few weeks before clinching the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa prize for innovation for his malaria-device.
Four years ago, Brian and his fellow students at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, came up with this low-cost, reusable device called Matibabu, which detects malaria removal quickly and without blood.
Although still in the prototype stage, the company judge, his malaria Test machine called “a game changer” in the fight against this deadly disease.
Magnets and matiscope
“Matibabu” means “treatment” in Swahili, and the machine uses magnets and a custom-made portable device called a matiscope.
This is a red beam of light onto the fingers of the user, the detection of a substance called haemozoin crystals, the by-products of the malaria parasite seems to be.
The creators believe Matibabu could turn to test the situation by accelerating time to draw since it is not necessary the blood nor the use of invasive needles, the children are fighting, in particular, can.
In the last year in Uganda alone, malaria 9.5 million people and killed affected with 5.100. Worldwide, the disease kills nearly half a million people per year, mostly small children in sub-Saharan Africa.
“My child suffered sudden cramps, and refused to eat. He was happy to go play for a moment, and in the school, and was sick the next,” says Achan, Nighty, sitting on a bed, next to her son, at the age of six, in the hospital Kitgum in Northern Uganda.
“We live very far from the clinic in a small farm. I have to be careful or my three other small children and no money, so it took three days to get here. I pray that it is not too late.”
Brian first came up with this idea when he suffered a severe attack of malaria coupled with typhoid fever.
While in the hospital, he has presented a fast and pain-free, mobile diagnostic device, without the need for needles..
He will develop then, together with other graduates and graduates with skills in engineering, computer sciences and infectious diseases, the device.
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The latest fifth-generation Matibabu model requires only two minutes, in order to detect malaria, in contrast to 30 minutes or more is required when using a microscope.
The other currently recognized testing method, Rapid Diagnostic Tests, up to 15 minutes and require drawing blood, but not the number of parasites, which may lead to over medication.
Since Matibabu requires no blood draw, it must not be operated by a specialist, so can be used by the local communities.The lack of resources
In addition, Matibabu is connected to a smartphone, which means that you can collect data, warning health teams to malaria outbreaks.
“A lot of people living in remote rural communities and the roads are terrible so that you have a problem, reach a Fitness device,” says Kitgum hospital Director, Dr. Geoffrey Akena.
“To try to solve this problem, we village health have provided teams traveling around the region, the treatment of people, but we don’t have enough information, so that you are moving blind.”
Across Uganda, there are 1.5 million cases of malaria each year, leading to serious complications, according to the Ministry of health – which means the disease was recognized too late. Malaria can be cured much faster and more effective if the treatment within the first 24 hours.
Matibabu would help to close these gaps and ensure that medication is readily available, to reach those who need quickly.
But not everything is clear-cut. The current Matibabu device detects about 80% of the malaria cases, which is far from the 99%, the generally accepted international standard, something that is of the Brian aware of.
“Our device is bulkier than the previous models, is associated with a personal computer, and you can swipe your finger, because the light seems to be on a blood sample. But our focus is now on the next laboratory clinical trials, with 300 patients and perfect the machine, we will improve the design later.”
Brian speaks while his small suitcase-sized device, stand outside of a clinic in the outskirts of Kampala, is one of many that he attended to explain to the doctors how his machine works.
Despite the challenges, Brian remains confident that Matibabu work and is seeking a $600,000 to bring it to the market in the next two years – with the risk that it is used in the future to diagnose other diseases such as anemia.
This BBC series was produced with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation