Chemists at The Ohio State University are developing paper strips that detect diseases including cancer and malaria—for a cost of 50 cents per strip.

A ground-breaking research was conduted by Abraham Badu-Tawiah, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and BioChemistry at Ohio State University, and two post-doctoral researchers, Suming Chen and Qiongqiong Wan.

The researchers were able to show that the paper test strips can successfully test for the most common malaria parasite, Plasmodium Falciparum, the protein biomarker for ovarian cancer, cancer antigen 125, and the carcinoembryonic antigen which is a marker for several other cancers, including cancer of the large intestine.

A Diagnosis on Paper

The test is made from sheets of plain white paper stuck together with two-sided adhesive tape and then printed with a special wax ink by a typical ink jet printer.

The wax ink traces the outline of channels and reservoirs onto the paper which then penetrate the paper to form a waterproof barrier which can capture a blood sample and hold it between the layers.

One 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper can hold dozens of individual tests, each roughly the size of a postage stamp.

To run a test, the patient would apply a drop of blood to the paper at home, which could then be mailed to a laboratory or testing center.

Bringing a Low-Cost Malaria Test to Remote Rural Areas

Badu-Tawiah and his fellow researchers originally conceived of the papers as a way to achieve cheap malaria testing – making a diagnosis possible for people in rural Africa and southeast Asia.

The disease kills hundreds of thousands of people and affects hundreds of millions every year.

Because the researchers were able to demonstrate that the tests could be accurate up to a month after the blood sample was applied to the paper, this offers significant possibilities for accurate and cost-effective testing in rural and hard-to-access regions, even those that lack existing significant healthcare infrastructure.

What’s most exciting, perhaps, is the cost of production.

For the research, Badu-Tawiah and his team were able to produce the testing strips for a cost of 50 cents per strip. However, he expects this price to fall, if and when the strips go into mass production.

The greatest expense in the testing regimen would be the cost of the spectrometers to read the results. However, work is already underway to develop less expensive handheld mass spectrometers.

Read more this breakthrough HERE.