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It is estimated that Malaria is responsible for over half of the human deaths on the planet in the history of time, making it one seriously evil disease. Today, Malaria has been eradicated in the majority of developed nations, yet it still plagues the poorest parts of the world, infecting over 300 million individuals annually. Subsequently, over a million perish from the disease every year, and the majority of those individuals are made up of children. It sucks, but technology might just hold the answer.
Researchers from Sanaria, a Maryland based biotech company, have developed a vaccine that is shown to be 100% effective in guarding against malaria infection. The only problem is getting it to the masses.
In its current state, the vaccine requires a large amount of irradiated plasmodium, the parasite that lives inside the mosquito and causes malaria. In order to procure the plasmodium, scientists have to individually extract the parasite from the salivary glands of irradiated carrier mosquitoes.
This process is tedious and impractical, but luckily for the world, these researchers have also come up with a proposed solution: they want to deploy teeny tiny robots to do the extraction for them.
The robot is called the Sporobot, and was developed by a team at Harvard University in Boston. The nanobot is almost as nefarious as the disease it is attempting to undermine, bringing new meaning to the notion of fighting fire with fire.
The Sporobot isolates carrier mosquitos in a chamber, decapitates them, and then sucks them dry of the plasmodium they host. With the device, the Sanaria team is able to extract plasmodium 10-30 times faster than they are able to with manpower alone.
Last month Sanaria launched an Indiegogo campaign to help them raise funds for the project. Unfortunately it was unable to reach its US250 000 goal, walking away with just over US$45 000. Sanaria has ensured that despite not reaching its goal, it will be going forward and developing the robot, it just might take a little more time.
In addition to the money raised on Indiegogo, the company has secured over US$120 million in National Institutes of Health and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funding, so it is well underway to making this vaccine a reality.
Although there is still a long way to go before this vaccine is available to the billions of people living in Malaria affected regions, the Sporobot could seriously speed up the process. Not to mention is a very nifty way of addressing global health issues with technological innovation. Who knew nanorobots could be so elegantly evil and terribly useful at the same time.