A wristwatch tocure malaria

By Fred Katerere NELSPRUIT, South Africa (20 January 2006) - The clock is ticking for the malaria parasite if a new invention succeeds. Gervan Lubbe, a scientist and owner of Gervans Trading in Port Elizabeth, South Africa said his company would introduce a wristwatch next month that helps detect and destroy malaria early. "It picks up the parasite and destroys it so early that the possibility of dying is absolutely zero and you don't even feel the early flu-like symptoms," said Lubbe. The digital watch is fitted with a tiny needle that pricks the wearer's skin four times a day to test for malaria parasites in the blood. If the parasite count tops 50, an alarm sounds and a coloured picture of a mosquito flashes on the watch. Three tablets that kill all traces of the disease must then be taken within 48 hours. Lubbe said he was approached by a major mining company to develop the device after it found that high levels of malaria among workers in Africa was hurting productivity. Gervans Trading has already received US$1.5 million worth of orders for the wristwatch from companies, governments and aid organisations working in Africa. The watch will cost about US$280 each, which Lubbe says is cheaper than treating a patient with severe malaria. The new device will be a relief to a lot of people working or travelling in malaria infested areas, as they will be saved from the stress of taking expensive anti-malaria tablets and suffering their side effects. Companies using the watches will be able to monitor their workers by making them walk through a scanner each day.The watch's radio frequency will transmit information of those wearing it to a central computer so health departments can ensure people at risk take their tablets. The 38-year-old scientist won a gold medal for the world's best medical invention at the International Inventions Show in Geneva in 1998 for a pain relief device. Malaria, which is caused by a parasite carried by the female anopheles mosquito, kills more than one million people every year and makes 300 million seriously ill, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). About 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in the sub-Saharan African region. ENDS