Malaria detection by Nirvascan Small Portable Spectrometer

The Use of the Portable Nirvascan Spectrophotometer to Detect Malaria Parasite in Blood.

Malaria is a life-threatening parasitic disease that affects millions of people every year, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. The disease is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. Early and accurate diagnosis of malaria is essential for timely and effective treatment and can help prevent the spread of the disease.

Traditionally, diagnosis of malaria has been done through blood smears and microscopy, which requires a skilled technician and can be time-consuming. However, advancements in technology have led to the development of new diagnostic tools that can provide faster and more accurate results. One such tool is the NIRVASCAN spectrometer.

The NIRVASCAN spectrometer is a portable, handheld device that uses near-infrared (NIR) light to detect the presence of malaria parasites in the blood. The device works by shining a beam of NIR light through a sample  of blood poured in a cuvette, and measuring the light that is transmitted. The transmitted light contains information about the chemical composition of the blood, which can be used to identify the presence of malaria parasites.

The NIRVASCAN spectrometer uses a technique called diffuse transmittance, which is a non-destructive method for analyzing the chemical composition of materials. In the case of malaria, the NIRVASCAN spectrometer uses near-infrared spectroscopy to detect the presence of hemozoin, a pigment that is produced by the malaria parasite as it feeds on hemoglobin in the blood. Hemozoin has a unique absorption pattern that can be detected by the spectrometer, allowing it to identify the presence of malaria parasites in the blood. Measurements through the skin (Finger, arm, ear) and identification of malaria parasite has also been done using the diffuse reflectance Nirvascan (Refer to "Malaria absorption peaks acquired through the skin of patients with infrared light can detect patients with varying parasitemia, P. Garcia, PNAS Nexus 2022, 1, 1-9). In this study, 60 people were examined by taking their blood and the PCR method determined that 27 (45%) were infected with Malaria and the rest were uninfected. A model was made using 36 people using absorption spectra measured from the 36 subjects.  The remaining 24 people  were also tested using the Near IR method on their ear, arm and fingers. The collected absorption spectra were then fed to the model to make predictions where the following results were obtained. The ear produced  92% accuracy with 100% (total=11) sensitivity and 85% specificity (Total=13). The finger produced 70% accuracy, 72% sensitivity and 69% specificity. The arm produced 72% accuracy, 59% sensitivity and 85% specificity. Overall the prediction results were better for the ear as compared to the arm and the finger.

Despite its potential advantages, the NIRVASCAN spectrometer is still in the early stages of development, and further research is needed to validate its effectiveness in a range of settings and populations. Additionally, the cost of the device may be a barrier to its widespread adoption, particularly in low-resource settings. However, as technology continues to advance, it is possible that the NIRVASCAN spectrometer could become an important tool in the fight against malaria, helping to improve diagnosis and reduce the burden of this deadly disease.

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