Rice University researchers have developed a noninvasive technology that accurately detects low levels of malaria infection through the skin in seconds with a laser scanner. The “vapor nanobubble” technology requires no dyes or diagnostic chemicals, and there is no need to draw blood.

The new diagnostic technology uses a low-powered laser that creates tiny vapor “nanobubbles” inside malaria-infected cells. The bursting bubbles have a unique acoustic signature that allows for an extremely sensitive diagnosis.

“The nanobubbles are generated on demand and only by hemozoin,” said Ekaterina Lukianova-Hleb, a research scientist in biochemistry and cell biology at Rice. “For this reason, we found that our tests never returned a false-positive result, one in which malaria was mistakenly detected in a normal uninfected cell."

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