This urine test kit for malaria could save thousands of lives in Nigeria and beyond

Malaria drugs in a Lagos pharmacy.
Malaria drugs in a Lagos pharmacy.
Image: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba
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In the last 18 months, Africa’s healthcare system and issues have come under the spotlight due the world’s worst Ebola outbreak. According to the World Health Organization, the virus has led to the deaths of around 11,000 people but Africa has an even more rampant disease with which it continues to contend: malaria.

Malaria infects some 300 million to 600 million every year around the world, according to Unicef. But Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for 90% of the world’s 580,000 annual malaria deaths and Nigeria accounts for 18% of global infections.

However, it appears the fight against malaria in Nigeria is set for a huge boost as the world’s first urine malaria test is set to debut. Created by Fyodor, a US based biotechnology firm founded by Nigerian Eddy Agbo, the urine malaria test provides point-of-need diagnosis of the Plasmodium parasite using dipstick technology as used with manual pregnancy tests. The urine malaria test is expected to be in pharmacies across Nigeria before the end of the year.

The do-it-yourself solution delivers a diagnosis within 20 minutes of testing and can be done by people with little or no training.

How the Urine Malaria test works. (courtesy Fyodor)
How the Urine Malaria test works. (courtesy Fyodor)

The potential of offering accurate and early diagnosis of the malaria parasite can speed up the process of tackling malaria in rural areas lacking in healthcare infrastructure and also reduces the risk of the wrong treatment. Tracking the accurate death toll of malaria in Nigeria is not an exact science as a significant number of deaths may go unreported.

The Urine Malaria Test won the inaugural 2015 Health Innovation Challenge Awards in Nigeria this month, backed by the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN).  The award comes with a grant of $100,000 and support for PHN from backers including Bill Gates; Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote; and former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.

Asides from fatalities, malaria also has a devastating effect on productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The disease costs the region up to $12 billion in trade, foreign investment and tourism.