ZHAW students develop treatment device for leishmaniasis
Many people in poorer southern countries suffer from a skin disease called leishmaniasis but cannot afford treatment. A new, affordable treatment device developed by two students at the ZHAW could help them.
Two microcontrollers, an infrared lamp and a contactless thermal sensor, all built into a casing from a 3D-printer – this is the new device for treating leishmaniasis. Systems Engineering students Giaele Quadri and Andreas Bachmann have declared war on the disease in a project at the ZHAW School of Engineering. Leishmaniasis is a skin disease that occurs in humans and animals worldwide and is caused by parasites. It is especially prevalent in poorer regions of South America, East Africa and Asia. The infection is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes severe skin lesions. In principle, this disease is curable, but the treatment is expensive. The new treatment device developed by Quadri and Baumann could change this. The prototype costs about 100 Swiss francs to manufacture, so could be a realistic alternative for treating leishmaniasis in developing countries.
An estimated 700,000 to 1.2 million people worldwide are infected with leishmaniasis every year, according to the non-profit organisation “Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative” (DNDi).
Fighting the parasites using thermal radiation appears to be a promising approach to treatment. Tests have shown that the parasites die when exposed to temperatures of above 40°C.
“The ideal duration and temperature for successful treatment have not been fully investigated yet,” says ZHAW student Giaele Quadri. “Therefore, our device allows the duration and temperature parameters to be adjusted freely.”
These parameters can easily be set via an app on the computer or smartphone.
“In order to make a reliable statement about the treatment’s success, the affected skin areas need to be warmed uniformly,” says Bachmann. “The radiation of the infrared lamp is therefore bundled by an octagonal, mirror-lined light channel, which allows uniform heating of the skin lying underneath.”
ZHAW scientist Mathias Bonmarin from the Institute of Computational Physics at the School of Engineering is very pleased with his students’ work. “The prototype they have developed is not only inexpensive to manufacture, but to my knowledge is also the first hand-held treatment device for leishmaniasis wounds that uses infrared radiation,” he says. “These rays penetrate the skin more deeply and should give good results.”
Testing of the prototype will now be carried out at the University of Lausanne.