Illustration: Alifian Sukma
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UNAIR NEWS – Conducting a research on Malaria in Indonesia is always interesting as it still haunts the country. Its virulence is not as catastrophic as it used to be in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Malarial drugs are more accessible than before. However, people who live in peripheral areas are still vulnerable to this disease.

“The community awareness to the disease is not actually increased. Dissemination effort is still important to be made,” said Prof. Indah S. Tantular, a researcher of Institute of Tropical Disease (ITD).

In general, malaria is still a major global health issue as it leads to a great number of deaths. It is predicted to infect 300-500 million of world’s population every year and kill about 2.5 million of them. Standard diagnostic method for malaria is performed with a microscope with the Giemsa stain. However, this method has some weaknesses. It can only be conducted by well-experienced experts and it takes a long time to find parasites in the blood sample on a microscope slide.

ITD UNAIR team, supported by a researcher from ITS, has developed a modified microscope used to perform malaria diagnostic method. To maximize the function of the microscope, Acridine Orange (AO) stain is used to easily observe the parasites in the blood sample.

This method is useful for malaria fast screening. Interestingly, inexperienced medical staff can also see the parasites in the blood, if the patient is infected by malaria. The parasites will glow as observed under the microscope. So, besides a breakthrough on microscope modification, Indah S. Tantular and her team has innovated on the stain used to detect malaria parasites. With their microscope and AO staining, malaria diagnosis can be made in a few minutes.

They have also found a formula to check malaria patients’ G6PD (Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase). So when a patient is diagnosed with malaria infection, G6PD test can performed directly. If the test shows low level of G6PD, the patient is not recommended to take primaquine. The drug is generally used to treat malaria.

“If there is G6PD deficiency, and the patient still takes primaquine, haematuria (the presence of red blood cells (erythrocytes) in the urine, ed.) may happen,” said Indah. If the patient has a low level of G6PD, another medication is needed to treat it. We should never make a new health issue from our treatment.

The formula created by Indah and her team is actually a simple one. It is also a simple procedure. It is in a form of transparent liquid. It is mixed with the blood sample of the patient and if the color turns pale after twenty minutes, the patient definitely has low G6PD level. If it turns bright orange, the patient is safe to consume primaquine.

“This G6PD test used to require incubation equipments and hours of time. But with the solution we formulated, it takes only twenty minutes,” she said. So, if we summed it up, the time needed to check for malaria infection and G6PD test is only thirty minutes or even less than that! (*)

Editor: Defrina Sukma Satiti

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