Jungle fever! Festival-goers tackle malaria at the Great Exhibition Rd Festival


The Paediatric Infectious Diseases group teamed up with the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology to put on a fantastic exhibit in the Malaria Zone.

The Great Exhibition Road Festival happened over the weekend and what a festival it was! Thousands of visitors came to South Kensington for this two-day celebration of science and the arts. Researchers from the Paediatric Infectious Diseases Group and the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology in Electronic Engineering, joined the jamboree in the Malaria Zone in what was one of the best exhibits of the festival.

Festival-goers were immersed immediately into a life-like jungle in the Malaria Zone. They brushed passed real-life plants, walked on a mulch path and were surrounded by jungle sounds. Once festival-goers had tested how tasty their blood was with putting their hands in boxes with live mosquitos and learnt all about blood and technology, they were exported to sub-Sahara Africa into the Malaria Clinic. Led by Dr Aubrey Cunnington, festival-goers tackled infection diagnosis and treatment in helping the research team analyse symptoms and use innovative biotechnology for diagnostics. From our youngest future scientists to science-curiositeers, the Malaria clinic was enjoyed by all as Aubrey said on the first day, “we’ve had lots of people really interested in the exhibit and everyone seems to be really enjoying it”.

After donning their lab coats, festival-goers were asked to imagine they were health workers in a small rural clinic in a sub-Saharan African country. It is malaria season and a child has been brought to the clinic feeling unwell. What is wrong with the child and how can we help them feel better? Festival-goers very quickly learnt from the simulation that they can’t accurately say it is malaria as all the symptoms also matched the diagnosis cards for viral infection, and were near identical to those on the bacterial infection cards! Both of which require very different treatments.

  • The team in the Malaria Clinic

    The Paediatric Infectious Diseases team and the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology in Electronic Engineering team in the Malaria Clinic

  • The research team with festival-goer

    A young festival-goer helps the team draw blood from the unwell baby in order to test the blood for infections using the Lacewing device

  • The jungle set-up

    The amazing jungle set-up in the Malaria Zone just before festival-goers entered the Malaria Clinic

  • Adults at the Malaria clinic

    The team busy immersing festival-goers in the Malaria Clinic

  • group of people at the Malaria clinic

    Festival-goers were given symptom cards and asked to look at the posters to decide whether the illness is caused by a virus or bacteria

  • checking the Lacewing

    One of the team showing a young scientist how information from the Lacewing automatically uploads to the mobile via bluetooth.

  • looking at the Malaria clinic

    The team with festival-goers in the Malaria Clinic

Festival-goers then helped the team use the Lacewing diagnostic device which is an innovative technology being developed to help better diagnose infections such as malaria, dengue, Ebola, and drug-resistant superbugs. This was where the fun began as festival-goers took blood in a syringe and drop the sample on the diagnostic chip of the Lacewing device. The Lacewing device analysed the blood and produced results indicating the type of infection in the blood.

The Lacewing device as festival-goers were shown, allowed the results to be shared immediately via Bluetooth to the smartphone. All data is uploaded to a database and tagged with location and time information. This immediate data-share would for example, help public health authorities monitor cases in real time and use the information to plan intervention campaigns during infection outbreaks.

The team took thousands of eager learners and inquisitive science-lovers on this jungle ride which was creative, immersive and thought-provoking. The time and effort put into the exhibit was worthwhile as Aubrey says “it's a really great chance for us to tell the public about the work that we're doing. I think that we owe that to the public since lots of the money for our research comes from public funding. We need to be able to explain what we're doing and why. And also it's a great way of helping people to learn about the science that we're doing so they can understand it and why it's important.”


Siobhan Markus

Siobhan Markus


Malaria, Infectious-diseases, Viruses, Great-Exhibition-Road-Festival
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