Person holding blood sample over sheet with check next to malaria

School of Medicine’s Brian Grimberg receives Fulbright Scholar Award

Will conduct research on malaria-detection device and teach in Peru

Brian Grimberg, assistant professor of international health, infectious diseases and immunology at the Center for Global Health and Diseases at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Award from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Grimberg will conduct research on a malaria-detection device he helped develop, and teach and mentor undergraduate, graduate and medical students at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, Peru.

Brian Grimberg

The rapid malaria detection device—called the Magneto-Optical Detector (MOD)—created by a multi-disciplinary Case Western Reserve team Grimberg led that includes physicists, engineers and medical personnel, enables fast, low-cost, high-sensitivity detection of malaria pigment in blood, providing results in less than a minute.

Grimberg’s course topics will include global health, infectious disease and drug resistance. He will spend four months in Peru over the course of two summers, starting in June 2018 and extending through September 2019.

Despite more than a century of concerted efforts, more than 500 million people become infected with malaria each year, and 1 million children die from the disease. A major problem is the lack of an accurate, cost-effective method of diagnosing the disease. Diagnosis is critical, not only to determine who needs treatment, but to find and treat carriers of the disease who do not feel ill but continue to spread it to others.

MOD capitalizes on the fact that malaria-infected cells become laden with an iron-containing particle, called hemozoin, which results from the digestion of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Magnets in MOD organize this particle to line up like iron filings, which, in turn, block a certain amount of light from passing through a sample. Using essentially a red laser pointer, health personnel can detect if this malaria-derived iron particle is present in patient blood. If present, the laser light will be blocked; if absent, the light will pass straight through unimpeded.

The device can accurately detect malaria more than 93 percent of the time in less than one minute. Current methods using microscopes are less than 50 percent accurate and can take up to an hour. MOD is also less expensive to use than current approaches and is portable, saving residents, especially in rural areas, from a long commute to a standard lab facility. The technology can screen entire villages of 100 people or more in less than a day—something that is currently impossible.

Grimberg is one of more than 1,200 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide expertise abroad for the 2016-2017 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected based on academic and professional achievement, record of service and demonstrated leadership in their fields.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.