Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine's Brian Grimberg receives Fulbright award

January 18, 2017

Brian T. Grimberg, PhD, 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.

Under the award, Dr. 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.

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

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

MOD takes advantage of 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.

Dr. Grimberg's course topics will include global health, infectious disease, bioethics, medical anthropology, and drug resistance. He will be in Peru for four months over the course of two summers starting in June 2018 and extending through September 2019.

He is one of over 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 on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership in their fields.
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The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. For more information about Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, please visit: http://case.edu/medicine.

Case Western Reserve University

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