2019 Rolex Awards Laureate
A powerful new weapon in the war on malaria – a disease that attacks 220 million people every year – is the dream of Ugandan IT specialist Brian Gitta.
The key to life-saving treatment of malaria is fast diagnosis: current tests require a blood sample and a skilled analyst, not always available in the developing world. So Gitta and his team have developed a portable electronic device that gives a reliable reading in minutes, without drawing blood.According to the World Health Organization, 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia carry almost 80 per cent of the global malaria burden. And worldwide, 61 per cent of malaria deaths are of children.
“Coming from the sub-Saharan region, my team has experienced many episodes of malaria. I can't actually count how many times I’ve suffered it since I was a kid,” Gitta says.
After five generations of prototypes, he has developed a novel device, the Matiscope, into which a patient inserts a clean finger – the device then uses light and magnets to detect the malaria parasite. The goal now is to improve diagnostic accuracy, in particular for the early stages of the disease – and convince doctors – and patients – they no longer need blood tests. The Matiscope is undergoing clinical trials. If it succeeds, Gitta, who is aged 26, plans to deliver it to hospitals throughout Uganda and Kenya.
“Malaria is a curable disease, if you know you have it,” he says. “Rapid diagnosis empowers the patient to take quick action that may save their life.”