Malaria is a devastating global health problem in many parts of the world, having caused nearly 215 million infections internationally and 655,000 deaths per year. Most people know malaria is transmitted by the bite of an infective mosquito: the female Anopheles mosquito in particular. There are other less common methods of transmission as well, including blood transfusion, organ transplantation, needle sharing and when a mother gives birth to a child.
One major problem in treating malaria is that so many counterfeit drugs are less expensive than drugs that are actually effective in treating malaria. Scientists at Oregon State University have developed an easy, inexpensive way to test for fake malaria drugs that could help save thousands of lives and reduce the resistance of certain strains of malaria. In some parts of the developing world, more than 80 percent of outlets are selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals, Oregon State science researchers have said. Scientists at Oregon State University have created a chemical test strip, or assay, that can determine whether a malaria drug is genuine.
One of the benefits of these assays is that they are inexpensive. Treatment for malaria costs $1 to $2, which can often be a prohibitively expensive price in developing countries. Counterfeit drugs fill the market where malaria patients can’t afford the price of genuine medication. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 200,000 people die per year because they use counterfeit anti-malarial drugs. Once the malaria drug test assays are commercialized, it will cost only a few cents to test the authenticity of medications.
“There are laboratory methods to analyze medications such as this, but they often are not available or widely used in the developing world where malaria kills thousands of people every year,” said Oregon State science researcher Vincent Remcho, a professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science. “What we need are inexpensive, accurate assays that can detect adulterated pharmaceuticals in the field, simple enough that anyone can use them. Our technology should provide that.”
Dr. Vincent Remcho
Image courtesy of Oregon State University
The malaria drug test strips developed by Dr. Remcho and other scientists at Oregon State University are sophisticated “colorimetric” assays that signify whether a malaria medication – almost always artesunate – is authentic. The assay also tells consumers whether an adequately therapeutic level of the drug is present. Because so many malaria patients use drugs with levels of artesunate that are too low to be effective, certain strains of malaria have become stronger and more resistant to treatment.
Oregon State science researchers receive a significant number of research grants that help fund discoveries such as the invention of inexpensive malaria drug tests. For example, the Oregon State University Superfund Research Program recently received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health. The multi-investigator, multi-disciplinary and multi-institution program focuses on the development of new technologies to assess polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) harmful at many Superfund sites and the analysis of the risk these hydrocarbons may pose for people who come in contact with them.
Oregon State University is clearly on the forefront of scientific research, and as a well-funded university, lab suppliers may want to learn more about the market. Biotechnology Calendar, Inc.’s BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at Oregon State University will take place on September 10th, 2014.
Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is a full-service science research marketing and events-planning company that has been helping lab suppliers market their products at life science vendor shows for over 20 years. If you are interested in life science events in other areas of the country, we encourage you to view our 2014 calendar of events. For more funding information on Oregon State University, or to learn more about the Oregon State life science marketing event, click on the button below.