Microfluidic approaches to malaria pathogenesis

Cell Microbiol. 2008 Oct;10(10):1968-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2008.01216.x. Epub 2008 Aug 27.


Malaria is a major poverty-related human infectious disease of the world. Over a billion individuals are under threat and several million die from malaria every year. The nature of disease, especially fatal disease, has been the subject of many studies. The consensus is that parasite-induced cytoadherance of red blood cells precipitates capillary blockage and inflammatory responses in affected organs. Reduced deformability of infected erythrocytes may also contribute to disease. What is not very clear is why people with significant parasite burdens display large variations in disease outcomes. Technologies which allow a detailed description of the cytoadherance properties of infected erythrocytes in individual patients, and which allow a complete description of the flow capabilities of red blood cell populations in that patient, would be very useful. Here we review the recent introduction of microfluidic technology to study malaria pathogenesis, including the fabrication processes. The devices are cheap, versatile, portable and require very small patient samples. With greater use in research laboratories and field sites, we eventually expect microfluidic methods to play important roles in malaria diagnosis, as well as prognosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Malaria / pathology*
  • Microfluidics / methods*
  • Parasitology / methods*