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George Frodsham, founder of Medisieve, undertakes research at the UCL Healthcare Biomagnetics Laboratory in London earlier this year.
George Frodsham, founder of Medisieve, undertakes research at the UCL Healthcare Biomagnetics Laboratory in London earlier this year. Photo supplied

New malaria treatment

A revolutionary treatment for malaria being developed in the United Kingdom combats the disease by filtering blood with magnets instead of using drugs, which could offer hope for a solution to Cambodia’s long-running battle with drug-resistant strains, its creator said yesterday.

The device is the brainchild of George Frodsham – who came up with it as part of his PhD studies at University College London – and is now being developed by the company he set up, MediSieve.

Malaria-infected red blood cells have a magnetic quality, which the apparatus targets by passing a patient’s blood through a special magnetic filter – a process known as Magnetic Haemofiltration.

“The best way to think about it is its like dialysis for malaria,” Frodsham said in an interview.

“[It] removes malaria-infected red blood cells and only malaria-infected red blood cells.”

The device, Frodsham said, is intended to treat severe cases.

According to tests carried out on blood samples in Colombia last year, the technique could remove as much as 90 per cent of infected cells in less than four hours – four times faster than the strongest drugs.

“And we’re removing the cells rather than killing them, which has a number of other benefits,” he said.

However Frodsham insists the treatment will complement rather than displace conventional drug-based treatments, as well as provide a solution to people who react badly to the drugs currently on offer.

For now, the device remains in development, with clinical trials unlikely to go ahead until late 2016. But for Frodsham, the potential benefits for Cambodia and its neighbours are clear.

“Southeast Asia is obviously an area where drug-resistance is emerging; it’s a prime area for us to look at,” he said.

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