Problem

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals caused by parasitic protozoans (a group of single-celled microorganisms) belonging to the Plasmodium type Malaria causes symptoms that typically include fever, fatigue, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases, it can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death. Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten. If not properly treated, people may have recurrences of the disease months later. In those who have recently survived an infection, reinfection usually causes milder symptoms. This partial resistance disappears over months to years if the person has no continuing exposure to Malaria.

The disease is most commonly transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquito bite introduces the parasites from the mosquito’s saliva into a person’s blood. The parasites travel to the liver where they mature and reproduce. Five species of Plasmodium can infect and be spread by humans. Most deaths are caused by P. falciparum because P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. Malariae generally cause a milder form of Malaria. The species P. knowlesi is a zoonosis causing increasingly disease in humans in Southeast Asia. Malaria is typically diagnosed by the microscopic examination of blood using blood films, or with antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests (RDT’s). Methods that use the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect the parasite’s DNA have been developed, but are not widely used in areas where Malaria is common due to their cost and complexity. *

In 2015 the WHO estimated the number of Malaria cases at 214 million and the number of deaths 438 000. Every 2 minutes a child dies because of Malaria. Almost all of these deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment gives the best chance of survival in Malaria cases. Currently a big gap exists in the availability of high quality Malaria diagnosis, especially on the community level. Due to a lack of well-trained laboratory staff with the WHO Malaria expert certification.

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria

Solution

MOMALA is a social enterprise on a mission to improve Malaria outcomes by providing extra capacity of high-quality diagnosis and drastically reduce over-consumption of Malaria medicines.
MOMALA is a mobile application available for smartphones with at least 3-megapixel cameras (Android). The app makes use of an algorithm, which is able to diagnose Malaria from a microscopic image of a blood smear. MOMALA’s algorithm is based on the Ph.D. work of Dr.Syed Saiden Abbas (Syed Saiden Abbas, Ph.D. Machine Learning Software Developer, Machine Learning expert and inventor of MOMALA algorithm) who was employed by Orikami. During his Ph.D. defense, the founders of MOMALA were inspired to bring this solution to rural Africa and that is the reason why they started MOMALA in 2016.

Orikami and Symax are the founders of the MOMALA BV, we bundled our expertise to create an e-health application for the African market from the algorithm. We presented a prototype on the first mHealth Hackathon in Brussels (March 2016).

The MOMALA solution won the first price. After media coverage, we were contacted by different parties including Amref Health Africa. With Amref we decided to implement MOMALA in Africa and went on an exploration mission to Kenya. We visited a county hospital, sub-county hospital, dispensary, and health center and saw how the diagnosis was done in practice, which equipment was used and the queue of women with small children waiting for a diagnosis on all different levels of the health care system. We saw the capacity needs and challenges in delivering high-quality malaria diagnostics.