In 2016, malaria killed 430,000 people. In Africa, a child dies every 2 minutes from the disease. Fast, accurate diagnosis is key to people getting the treatment that they require. Microscopy, the golden standard in malaria diagnostics, is time and resource intensive, and with sometimes as few as 1 in 40,000 people in a country medically trained, often people are just not diagnosed quickly enough.
MOMALA is an innovative method designed to get people diagnosed quickly and at a minimum cost. Using a smartphone and a microscope, the MOMALA app uses an algorithm to detect the presence of malaria parasites on a regular blood smeared slide, essentially digitizing the lab technician. By attaching the phone’s camera to the microscope’s ocular, the app photographs the blood smear and then analyses it, without the need for the smartphone to be connected to the internet. So far, the app can identify the three most common malaria parasites in Kenya: P. falciparum, P. ovale, and P. malariae, both speeding up the diagnostic process, and improving the accuracy of results.
At the moment, the application is limited by its reliance on microscopes, which are bulky, heavy, and not easily transportable. MOMALA aims to reduce this limitation by working with partners to design more portable, user-friendly microscopes.
Though currently only used in malaria diagnosis, the potential for the scaling up of MOMALA to diagnose other diseases is massive. With a growing team of data specialists, health experts and entrepreneurs, along with the partnership with Amref, MOMALA hopes to scale up to make an impact throughout Africa, on numerous diseases.