The Machine to Digitise Malaria Diagnoses #BigBangMoment
Humanity’s struggle against malaria has been centuries long, but the tides have turned in our favor. Two young men from Uganda have developed a machine that can diagnose whether a person has malaria or not in less than a minute without having to draw blood. With their technology, they are taking on this global health issue. Continue reading to get to know the story of the startup Matibabu, how they came up with their idea and how it works.
Brian Gritta and Joshua Businge, the two founders of Matibabu, wanted to have an impact on the world. But how did they decide to focus on malaria detection?
Like many great inventors, they were inspired by personal experience and a desire to help others. Brian Gritta found himself at risk of having malaria. He suffered through the unpleasant malaria test and the long waiting period before he received a diagnosis. The experience made him wonder if there could be a simpler method to diagnose malaria. So, after his studies in Computer Science at the Makerere University in Uganda, he started working on a technology that might change the fate of millions of people. Together with his friend Joshua, he found a way to get rid of the complicated diagnosis methods and now blood sampling and needles are a thing of the past.
In order to make the detector as accessible as possible, the founders integrated the diagnosis tool into a mobile phone app. Optimization for mobile devices has been a key focus for success, as on the African continent there has been a massive boom in mobile usage. Even in the most remote and rural regions, mobile phones are extremely common. Combining the prolific use of mobile phones with Matibabu’s portable device, people can get a diagnosis without leaving their bedrooms. Matibabu’s innovation not only solves the issue of unpleasant blood tests, but also makes it possible for patient to diagnose malaria without the help of a medical professional. Often people will not visit a doctor when they first begin to experience symptoms because the travel involved is long, arduous and expensive. This reluctance to travel can be costly, as the earlier malaria is detected, the better the patient’s chances of recovery. Children in particular suffer because of this. Last year malaria killed more children under the age of 5 than HIV. Matibabu means that patients can get an immediate diagnosis and treatment plan nearly anywhere.
At the moment there are four different light sensor prototypes that can be connected to a smartphone. Three of them are smaller devices, which require the user to insert the top of their index finger into the machine to get a result. The fourth version is much larger and uses a combination of magnetic and optic components. The diagnosis is then indicated within the Matibabu app on the user’s smartphone. The app also has features that allows patients to immediately share their diagnosis with their doctors and receive information on their treatment options.
With help of their innovation the fight against malaria may soon be much easier. While this challenge seems daunting to some, Gitta and Businge believe “as long as you put your mind to it and work hard, you can accomplish anything at any age.”