Almost half of the world´s population lives in areas with an elevated risk of malaria, a disease that proves fatal for half a million people per year, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Malaria is transmitted through mosquito bites that introduce the parasite into a person´s bloodstream. The proper diagnosis of this disease, which is required for an effective treatment, requires the detection of the parasite in the patient´s blood. The Asturian engineer Miguel Luengo has developed the MalariaSpot project, which turns the distributed diagnostics for this disease into a videogame.
The way it works is relatively simple: a picture is taken of a microscopic view of a drop of the individual´s blood with a smartphone camera, which is then sent to the network of players, and these compete to identify the presence of malaria parasites in the photograph. The first images utilized in the videogame were provided by a hospital in South Africa in order to test the effectiveness of this diagnostic method. After analyzing the results and incorporating more forces into the community of players, this year a pilot test was performed in Mozambique to measure its performance in real time. The next steps will be to manufacture the device which includes a microscope and can be attached to a smartphone, and the medical validation of the method.
This young, Spanish innovator combines his work as a researcher in the Biomedical Imagery Technologies group at the Technical University of Madrid (Spain) with his position as the lead data scientist at the United Nations Global Pulse.