Researchers working at the Imperial College in London along with 13 cooperating institutions in Africa, which includes Burkina Faso, have been given a 3 million pound funding by the National Institute of Health Research as a part of the Global Health Research Group program.
The grant will allow the GHRG to build and test new digital screening procedures for infectious diseases during the next four years. Lacewing, a handheld electronic gadget developed at Imperial College by Professor Pantelis Georgiou’s team, will be used in these digital diagnostics to identify nucleic acids like DNA on a microchip.
In comparison to major laboratory machines, the tests are fast, inexpensive, and portable. It’s possible to track the spread of disease in real-time by connecting a smartphone to the system and having the data sent to the smartphone.
Dr. Cunnington says that this project will address the huge need for correct access to diagnostic tests in middle and low-income countries. At the moment less than one-half of Africa’s population has access to fast and accurate diagnostics. This makes it extremely difficult to properly identify the disease and mete out the correct treatment.
Dr. Cunnington says that with these diagnostic kits, the potential of digital diagnostics can be evaluated for tackling issues like malaria and childhood infections. The researchers working on this project have a wide array of skills including design engineering, electronics, clinical medicine, mathematical modeling and health system research.
He ends by saying that the GHRG will also recruit ten Ph.D. students from Africa to get training and undergo research on digital diagnostics so that capacity can be built in countries where these services are sorely needed.