Hemozoin-catalyzed precipitation polymerization as an assay for malaria diagnosis

Rifaie-Graham, Omar and Pollard, Jonas and Raccio, Samuel and Balog, Sandor and Rusch, Sebastian and Hernández-Castañeda, María Andrea and Mantel, Pierre Yves and Beck, Hans Peter and Bruns, Nico (2019) Hemozoin-catalyzed precipitation polymerization as an assay for malaria diagnosis. Nature Communications, 10 (1). 1369. ISSN 2041-1723 (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09122-z)

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Methods to diagnose malaria are of paramount interest to eradicate the disease. Current methods have severe limitations, as they are either costly or not sensitive enough to detect low levels of parasitemia. Here we report an ultrasensitive, yet low-resource chemical assay for the detection and quantification of hemozoin, a biomarker of all Plasmodium species. Solubilized hemozoin catalyzes the atom transfer radical polymerization of N-isopropylacrylamide above the lower critical solution temperature of poly(N-isopropylacrylamide). The solution becomes turbid, which can be observed by naked eye and quantified by UV-visible spectroscopy. The rate of turbidity increase is proportional to the concentration of hemozoin, with a detection limit of 0.85 ng mL −1 . Malaria parasites in human blood can be detected down to 10 infected red blood cells μL −1 . The assay could potentially be applied as a point-of-care test. The signal-amplification of an analyte by biocatalytic precipitation polymerization represents a powerful approach in biosensing.