August 13, 2013 -- In his 21 years Brian Gitta has had malaria too many times to count. And over the years, because of the numerous times he has had to have his blood drawn to test for the disease, he has developed a fear of needles. It is little wonder then that he and three of his fellow computer science students worked hard to develop a mobile phone app that detects malaria - without the use of needles.
"I was two or three years old when I first contracted it," says Gitta, who is studying computer science at Makerere University in Kampala.
"It's very unusual to meet people in Uganda who haven't had malaria. If you go to a clinic, you might find that 90 percent of patients have it."
Annually an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 Ugandans die from the tropical disease, which is transmitted to humans by mosquitos carrying the malaria parasite. That makes it the country's biggest killer, according to the NGO Malaria Consortium Uganda. Experts say nearly half (about 42 percent) of Uganda's 34.5 million people are host to the malaria parasite, although they do not display any signs of being ill.
Gitta's most recent bout of malaria, just before Christmas in 2012, was severe. He contracted brucellosis, an infectious disease contracted by the consumption of unsterilised milk or meat, and typhoid at the same time and had to be hospitalised for a month.
"I had to undergo lots of blood tests. I was in lots of pain and the doctor's queue was long," he says.
Gitta was bedridden during his convalescence, and during that time he had a light bulb moment. He imagined a "mobile medical centre" that offered a quicker and pain-free diagnosis without needles and pricks. Gitta envisaged using a small device for this - but it was a big vision.
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