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Ricardo Franco, leader of the BioNanoSensors lab at UCIBIO-NOVA, has just published a new research publication that reports the development of a new device for sensitive and accurate detection of infection by malaria parasite. This research work, published in the Journal Analyst and highlighted as Hot article 2023, resulted from a collaboration between Ricardo Franco’s research lab and researchers from CENIMAT-NOVA, LAQV, iMM and FOCAS research institutes.  


Detecting malaria early and accurately is crucial for diagnosing patients and improving their chances of recovery. We've created a special tool using a common plastic and a high-tech method called Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) to find Plasmodium falciparum (Pf), the causative agent of malaria, in patient's blood. This tool can be made in less than 30 minutes by direct patterning on shrinkable polystyrene sheets of microfluidic chips. This test has about 7-fold higher sensitivity than most rapid diagnostic tests, and thus it can detect a very small amount of the parasite in the blood. 


“Our approach makes the results more reliable, sensitive, and specific. Furthermore, our system can be easily adapted for detection of other pathogens and has excellent properties for early diagnosis of infectious diseases, a decisive step towards lowering their high burden on healthcare systems worldwide”, concludes Ricardo Franco emphasizing the importance of this work. 




A simple polystyrene microfluidic device for sensitive and accurate SERS-based detection of infection by malaria parasites

Maria João Oliveira, Soraia Caetano, Ana Dalot, Filipe Sabino, Tomás R. Calmeiro, Elvira Fortunato, Rodrigo Martins, Eulália Pereira, Miguel Prudêncio, Hugh J. Byrne, Ricardo Franco, Hugo Águas, Analyst, 2023,148, 4053-4063;

DOI: 10.1039/d3an00971h