When the malaria-causing Plasmodium parasite chomps through red blood cells, it leaves a tell-tale trace of magnetic poo as it digests iron-rich haemoglobin. The discovery that this waste product, called haemozoin, can be detected by Magnetic Resonance Relaxometry (MRR) scanning has created the intriguing possibility of a new test for the disease. More than 200 million people are infected with malaria each year and many die because regions where it’s endemic lack the facilities for diagnosis. A standard test is to examine a smear of blood under a microscope – pictured is a sample showing dots, stained purple, that are characteristic of blood cells infected with two common varieties of Plasmodium. Scientists who developed the magnetic scanning test claim it could provide a simpler, faster, more accurate and cheaper alternative to the existing method.
Written by Mick Warwicker
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.