TMek: a rapid diagnostic test for malaria

Rapid and cost-effective solution for diagnosis in tropical areas with no specialised staff

The article "A lab-on-chip tool for rapid, quantitative and stage-selective diagnosis of malaria" has been published in the journal Advanced Science. It reports on the progress of TMek, the new rapid and accurate diagnostic test for malaria developed by the Politecnico di Milano, following on-field trials held in Cameroon involving 75 patients with clinical suspect of malaria.

During the validation study TMek, due to the absence of false negatives and a few false positive results, confirmed its potential as a quantitative, stage-selective, rapid test for malaria.

Currently the most sensitive malaria detection method is based on gene recognition of the various strains of plasmodium through the PCR method, which is complicated, expensive and not available in African dispensaries. The standard method that is currently used in Africa due to its ease of use involves placing infected red blood cells in a drop of blood on an optical microscope. Although this method is sufficiently sensitive, it requires very skilled staff, there can be variability in interpreting the results and analysis times are long.

The system designed by the team led by Riccardo Bertacco, professor at the Department of Physics of the Politecnico di Milano, is based on a 'lab-on-chip' approach, where complex operations are engineered and miniaturised into a low-cost, disposable microchip which is connected via USB to an electronic reading device, and aims to provide a rapid and cost-effective solution for malaria diagnosis, compatible with adoption in tropical areas where there are no specialised staff.

TMek came from a research project financed by the Polisocial Award, the Politecnico di Milano’s social responsibility programme.

The device has been patented by the Politecnico di Milano as a “Social patent”. The research group launched an ethical start-up with social objectives

It is possible to contribute to the development of TMek through the crowdfunding platform of the Politecnico di Milano.