The $33,000 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has been awarded to a 24-year old Ugandan engineer Brian Gitta for his invention of a bloodless malaria test. The device used for the test is called Matibabu.
There's always something special with African talent and it ought to be celebrated enough and properly too. A bloodless test for malaria by young Ugandan inventor Brian Gitta, 24, has won the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa's Prize.
For inventing a device that tests malaria without any drawing of blood, Brian Gitta was awarded $33 000. With such a noble initiative, testing malaria has been made easy now. The device he created is called Matibabu, which means "treatment" in Swahili.
The device can detect signs of malaria by shining a red beam of light on the patient's finger, and in a minute the diagnosis would be shared to a mobile phone which will be linked to the device. The device is clipped onto a person’s finger and using light and magnetism, a red beam of light scans the finger for changes in colour, shape and concentration of the red blood cells.
In a country where malaria is one of the leading causes of death, Matibabu comes in handy as it is cheap, reusable, non-invasive and does not even require any specialist training. Usually when testing of malaria is done, small samples of blood are drawn from a person and with Matibabu, there's no need for pricking.
As for the inspiration, it stemmed from the fact that blood tests had failed to diagnose Brian Gitta's malaria. Shafik Sekitto, who is also part of the Matibabu program, said that it took four blood tests to diagnose Mr Gitta with the disease. "[Gitta] brought up the idea: 'Why can't we find a new way of using the skills we have found in computer science, of diagnosing a disease without having to prick somebody?" Mr Sekitto said.
"Matibabu is simply a game-changer," Rebecca Enonchong, Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation judge and Cameroonian technology entrepreneur, said in a statement. "It's a perfect example of how engineering can unlock development - in this case by improving healthcare." The Royal Academy for Engineering Africa prize was set up in 2004 to provide support, funding, mentoring and business training to the winners.
The journey has not been easy, as Mr Sekitto revealed. They had to go through many regulators in order to make it come to life. It is "not an easy journey because you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the device is safe for human use", he said. But now international researchers have approached the team offering support, and are currently performing field trials on the device. Talk of how things are colouring up for them.
"The recognition will help us open up partnership opportunities - which is what we need most at the moment," Mr Gitta said in a statement. Yeah yeah.
The fight to end malaria by 2030 still rages on, as set in goal three of the UN’s SDGs. It is becoming hard because of increased drug resistance and the prolific supply of fake and substandard drugs across Africa.
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