Research Highlights

Biosensor for detecting malaria parasite 

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.143 Published online 16 November 2018

Researchers have invented a highly sensitive, low-cost biosensor that can detect trace amounts of a specific enzyme secreted by the malignant-malaria-causing parasite1. This biosensor will be useful for detecting the presence of the malaria parasite at an early stage.

Malignant malaria is a life-threatening disease. Current techniques for identifying biomarkers for malignant malaria are time consuming and expensive. Some of the malaria-detecting systems even degrade in hot and humid environments.

In search of a cheap and efficient method for diagnosing malaria, scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology in Guwahati, Assam, developed the biosensor using a specific transistor containing gold microelectrodes and short DNA molecule.   

They then tested this sensor’s efficiency in identifying glutamate dehydrogenase, a marker enzyme that plays vital roles in the survival of the parasite in the host body. When exposed to test samples containing the marker protein, the protein formed a complex by binding to the DNA molecule on the sensor. This, in turn, generated a net balance charge, leading to a change in potential of the sensor.

This change in potential could be correlated with the concentration of the marker protein. The sensor was able to detect extremely low concentrations of the enzyme in five seconds.

It could detect the enzyme at nanomolar concentrations when malignant malaria doesn’t show any symptoms. The researchers say that this makes the sensor suitable for predicting the onset of malignant malaria long before the manifestation of its symptoms.


References

1. Singh, N. K. et al. Development of an aptamer-based field effect transistor biosensor for quantitative detection of Plasmodium falciparum glutamate dehydrogenase in serum samples. Biosens. Bioelectron. 123, 30-35 (2019)