malaria

Nets lay drapped over a bed to protect against mosquitos.
YOHANDY / FLICKR

Humans have had to live with malaria for a long time. So long, in fact, that we even see changes in our genome that protect us from the disease.

"Sickle cell anemia probably emerged in human populations approximately ten to twelve thousand years ago. And this occurred coincidental with the change in lifestyle and agricultural settlements. So there was enough population densities of people that mix with population densities of mosquitos," Jim Kazura said.

A photo of the disease in the liver.
CDC / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

When Dr. Robert Brown started teaching physics at Case Western Reserve University, he had no idea he’d be using his expertise in magnetic fields to hunt malaria. The earlier malaria is diagnosed, the more likely you are to survive, but most lab techniques can’t be used in rural villages.

“We wanted to diagnose malaria with something fast, portable, and cheap and accurate, which sounds challenging, but in fact we were able to really do it,” Brown said.