Today, I was made aware of a research project made by Ugandan CS students who claim to have built a smartphone app together with a device called a "matiscope" that
[...] uses a red light to penetrate the skin [of a finger inserted into the device] and detect the red blood cells [...and] used light-scattering technology to determine the scatter patterns of both normal and infected cells
in order to detect an infection with Malaria.
Now this device sounds a lot like a simple oximeter, and the claims put forth in that article are rather vacuous, i. e.
[...] they test no less than 50 patients a day for malaria and receive eight to 10 positive results.
without saying anything about whether those results were accurate. But even if they were, my guess would be that changes in oxygen saturation caused by a severe bout of malaria would far outweigh any possible changes in light absorption caused by Plasmodium parasites. But I'm curious anyway.
A quick PubMed search has turned up nothing, but maybe I've been using the wrong search terms - is there any evidence available that such a device/app could in fact work?
The students have won the "Women's Empowerment Award" from Microsoft's Imagine Cup in 2013, which is wonderful, but the website doesn't have any additional information, either.