Aqsens Health and NMIMR publish the first results of their malaria screening test research
Accra, Ghana. Aqsens Health Oy and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) continue their collaboration as the complete results of the proof of concept study with malaria show that Aqsens Health’s E-TRF method is able to reliably detect malaria from saliva.
Aqsens Health’s E-TRF method has so far been applied to non-infectious diseases like cancers and gastrointestinal diseases. Its use in malaria detection is the first step towards the method’s application to a wider range of both non-communicable conditions and other communicable diseases.
The research collaboration between Aqsens and NMIMR began in the spring of 2021 and the malaria saliva samples arrived in Finland in July. The first round of sample analysis was completed in the beginning of September and now both parties are ready to publish the first results of the collaboration.
Proof of concept study for malaria detection with E-TRF and AQ MOBI
In this proof of concept study, Aqsens Health tested different chemical and biological modulators of the E-TRF method to see if it is able to differentiate between malaria positive and negative samples. The positive samples in this study cohort were from patients infected by Plasmodium falciparum, which is the most common and severe malaria causing pathogen.
The assay for the detection of malaria was developed based on Aqsens Health’s E-TRF studies leading to the development of the AQ biosensor, using both chemical and biological modulators. Aqsens Health analysed ninety saliva samples with the method and was able to reach 80% specificity and sensitivity of malaria detection. The results were compared against the Plasmodium falciparum PCR results of the same patients. In addition, the samples were analysed with HRP2-based rapid diagnostics tests (RDT) and light microscopy.
The results are encouraging and Aqsens Health will continue studying the cross-reactivity and other relevant test parameters. The method’s accuracy will be further improved as the project continues and will be validated with a larger sample size.
The samples were also measured with specifically tuned biological modulators that created a visible colour reaction between the positive and negative saliva samples. First, these colour differences were measured with a Tecan Spark reader and then with the AQ MOBI platform. Both measurements showed a very high correlation. This gives an excellent basis for the optimization and productization of the AQ MOBI platform and AQ MALARIA test.
A helping hand in malaria management
A non-invasive screening test would be excellent help in the management of malaria. A cost-efficient way to screen for malaria widely in the beginning and in the end of the malaria season, for example, could give researchers valuable and accurate information about the prevalence of malaria in different geographic areas. Additionally, in the future it would be extremely beneficial to be able to find asymptomatic persons whose symptoms only develop after infection, to ensure effective treatment and malaria management.
“This project has been one the most intriguing challenges not only from E-TRF point of view, but also from the point of view of looking at the potential impact of having a low cost solution to manage epidemics like malaria,” says Janne Kulpakko, Chief Scientific Officer at Aqsens Health Oy.
“We are excited to continue our collaboration with Noguchi on malaria, as well as on other epidemic diseases which could potentially be detected with our E-TRF–method and AQ MOBI platform,” he continues.
The collaboration between Aqsens Health Oy and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research will continue with Senior Research Fellow Dr. Linda Eva Amoah spearheading the project in Ghana.
“The E-TRF based screening test and AQ MOBI platform for malaria detection could have a lot of advantages in malaria management. We at Noguchi are thrilled about the initial results and very happy to deepen our collaborations with Aqsens,” Dr. Amoah summarizes.
In the next phase of the research and development work, Aqsens Health’s aim is to differentiate between parasite species and life cycle stage, which will provide knowledge related to the possibilities and limits of the method. The next critical step for Aqsens Health is sequencing the phages used in malaria detection in collaboration with Karolinska Institute researcher and geneticist Ville Pimenoff to further determine the mechanism behind the detection method.
Aqsens Health will also continue to refine and further develop its AQ MOBI platform’s capabilities to manage epidemics and other diseases detectable from saliva in developing economies. The company’s goal is to validate its malaria screening test and also to perform AQ MOBI platform field trials in Ghana during 2022.
For more information, contact:
CEO and Co-Founder
+358 40 5853105
Aqsens Health Oy is a Finnish health- and biotechnology startup developing non-invasive screening tests for different high-impact diseases. The company’s current research projects focus on developing a mobile screening platform fit for the needs of developing economies, and establishing a reliable and cost-efficient screening test for prostate cancer. The tests use Aqsens Health’s novel E-TRF technology in combination with bacteriophage-biosensors. The company’s laboratories and main office are located in Turku, Finland, with another office in the capital Helsinki.
The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) is the premier medical research institute in Ghana, and one of the leading biomedical institutes in Western Africa. It is a part of the University of Ghana, and is located in the nation’s capital Accra. In the 21st century, the institute’s research has focused on several high-impact diseases like HIV and AIDS, TB, rotavirus, malaria, and most recently, the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana.