A world first diagnostic saliva test for malaria is on the horizon. The saliva-based diagnostic tool, to be marketed by ERADA as a Saliva-based Malaria Asymptomatic and Asexual Rapid Test (SMAART) for subclinical infection, is set to transform malaria detection worldwide. Malaria, globally, kills an estimated 435,000 each year, mostly children under the age of five, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The SMAART detection tool is the invention of US based researchers in the field of malaria diagnostics according to a publication in Science Translational Medicine.
ERADA’s innovative solution is easy- to-use, as it includes a simple device for standardized collection of saliva that can be implemented in the community by health care professionals, teachers and parents; contrasting with invasive blood tests, which must be administered by trained clinicians. Other drawbacks to blood tests include cultural ‘blood taboos’ existing in many countries whilst, furthermore, skin-prick tests are often stressful for children and parents.
The SMAART detection tool works by detecting a novel biomarker for Plasmodium falciparum parasites. In some areas of the world, the parasites have acquired a mutation and are therefore no longer detected by current blood-based tests. But ERADA’s saliva test detects an essential protein the parasite needs for survival, which should avoid the problem of influence from the mutation and keep the test effective long-term.
“As someone who has suffered from malaria, I know first-hand that if the parasite had been detected early, I could have been treated and cured before the symptoms of the disease made me unwell,” Dr Benji Pretorius, ERADA’s founder and Managing Director says.”
“As a practicing clinician myself and following my personal experience of this debilitating disease, I was spurred on to work with my colleague Dr Richard Schmidt in our small community, Musina, in South Africa, together with a global team of scientists. Our vision is to bring to market ERADA’s SMAART diagnostic tool as quickly as possible in the belief that it will go on to save literally millions of lives in the future.”
“The introduction of SMAART is going to play a major part in achieving effective diagnostic testing and surveillance; as well as prevention and treatment of this disease, and therefore will be a major catalyst in meeting the WHO’s 2030 target to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by 90% ,” Dr Pretorius says.