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No Blood Required: Dengue Probe

Imagine being able to screen patients for dengue without needing to draw their blood. Remarkably, this is no longer a concept from science fiction or a mere 'what if' scenario. The technology to test for dengue without a blood sample now exists.


Dr. Abdul Halim Poh, a visiting scholar at the University of Malaya, specialises in medical devices, mainly electronic dengue studies. His PhD work sought to relate dengue detection to non-blood sample methods. His study used a unique research methodology known as a ”diffuse reflectance spectroscopy”, which involves analysing past cases to detect dengue in human skin and identify those who were not favourable for the disease. After finishing his thesis in 2019, he prototyped and tested a gadget for this purpose.


Dr. Halim's development of a non-invasive, label-free dengue screening tool is captivating. Previously, diagnosing dengue necessitated drawing blood, frequently through different machines. However, his device expedites the process of blood collection and testing by efficiently processing samples.


Dengue Probe


The inspiration for this gadget stems from deeply personal experiences, including Dr. Halim's heart-wrenching encounter with his dehydrated daughter, who required blood from a paediatric unit. This poignant narrative underscores the human element in driving medical technology advancement, fostering a sense of empathy and connection with the innovation.


Dr Abdul Halim Poh demonstrated the DNA Probe on Prof Ir Dr Kaharudin Dimyati, Deputy Vice Chancellor of UM Research & Innovation at the Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition (ITEX) 2024


Its technique depends on complex mechanics. An integrating sphere, a key component of the gadget, uses reflected light from the skin and visible light from lightbulbs to profile the skin, tissues, and body. This data is then subjected to discriminant analysis, a statistical technique, to differentiate between dengue-positive and non-dengue-positive people. Unlike other testing methods, this approach doesn't need blood.


Example of the analysis results from the device in the software. Disclaimer: This result is simulated and not fully accurate. However, Dr Halim hopes it will be along similar lines to a working version in the future once the algorithm is more robust and will be demonstrable to a higher extent.


Dr. Halim's technology boasts an impressive accuracy percentage, ranging between 89 and 90%, depending on clinical sample sizes. It leverages critical metrics for medical diagnosis, focusing on sensitivity and specificity. The potential for reduced discomfort during blood collection, streamlined processing of blood samples, and significant cost savings in testing and transportation instil a sense of hope and optimism about its potential impact on healthcare practices.


Funding constraints and technological challenges, particularly with the unique aspect of retroactive research, have posed significant hurdles in the development of Dr. Halim's technology. Retroactive research involves analysing past cases to detect dengue in human skin and identify those who were not favourable for the disease. However, the device's future seems bright with more funds and technical improvements.


Dr. Halim underscores the pressing need for equitable and fair access to his gadget, particularly in resource-limited environments. He asserts that the gadget's reasonable price could pave the way for its accessibility in areas with limited resources, underscoring the urgency and necessity of ensuring equal access to life-saving medical technology.


Dr. Halim's non-invasive, label-free dengue screening equipment represents a significant advancement in medical technology, potentially revolutionising healthcare procedures and dengue diagnosis globally. This breakthrough offers a beacon of hope, promising faster, more accessible, and less invasive dengue diagnosis.


Researchers featured:


Dr Abdul Halim Poh, Visiting Scholar

Department of Mechanical Engineering, UM

 Associate Prof. Dr. Farazila Binti Yusof,

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, UM



Author: Ms Tan Wei Nie 

With a keen interest, Tan Wei Nie, a PhD candidate in law, enriches her studies by fusing science with narrative, uncovering connections between the two fields. Her passion for nature and staying active fuels her enthusiasm for life and learning, infusing her journey with unexpected thrills and excitement.



Siti Farhana Bajunid Shakeeb Arsalaan Bajunid, Assistant Registrar, UM

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