Artificial intelligence and infrared technology supports malaria detection

Scientists at the University of Glasgow and partner institutes, have developed a ‘fast and simple way’ to identify the ageing mosquitos which transmit malaria.

The study was led by the University of Glasgow Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine and School of Chemistry, along with the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania and the Institut de Recherché en Sciences de la Santé in Burkina Faso.

Scientists demonstrated a method of identifying the age and species of malaria mosquitoes by shining infrared light onto individual mosquitoes, providing information on the insect’s chemical composition. They were then able to quickly identify chemical changes of ageing mosquitoes using an artificial intelligence algorithm.

One of the aims of the study was to enable considerably faster and more efficient analysis of mosquito age, which is key in detecting malaria.

Mrs Doreen Siria from the Ifakara Health Institute, said: “Only mosquitos that live long enough to develop malaria – around ten days – can transmit the disease, so knowing the age of a mosquito can help inform the risk of disease. Until now, the only way to know the age of a mosquito was via complex dissection to gauge the age of female mosquitos’ ovaries, a process which is expensive, time-consuming and can’t be done at scale.”

Simon Babayan, from the Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, added: “The versatility of AI combined with the power of infrared spectroscopy opens huge opportunities for disease surveillance and rapid response. As these technologies become more accessible, we will move towards instantaneous data collection and analysis directly within, and potentially by, the communities that need to act on such information the most.”

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Entitled, ‘Rapid age-grading and species identification of natural mosquitoes for malaria surveillance’, the study was published in Nature Communications,