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iPhone camera helps scientists detect infections in rural Tanzania

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By attaching a 3mm ball lens to the rear-facing camera lens of an iPhone, scientists are able to view samples from patients to determine if they are suffering from intestinal worms. Photo from www.ajtmh.org.

Scientists working in rural Tanzania have found a fascinating new use for the iPhone camera: With a 3mm ball lens attached, the camera can be used to test for the presence of intestinal worms in young patients. 

Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto General Hospital partnered with experts from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute to create the affordable and highly portable microscope kit. A 3mm ball lens attached to the rear-facing iPhone camera lens allows for 50 to 60 times magnification of sample slides pressed against the lens and illuminated with a flashlight. 

Bogoch and his team work to diagnose hookworm and other soil-transmitted helminth infections that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in infected children. Using the iPhone microscope kit, the scientists were able to detect 70% of infections in samples where the worms were present and 90% of infections in the samples where the contamination was heavy.

In an interview with the BBC, Bogoch revealed that his team is not done yet:

"70% (accuracy) isn't really good enough, we want to be above 80% and we're not quite there yet," he added.

"The technology is out there. We want to use materials that are affordable and easy to procure."

The iPhone microscope kit costs about $15, making it very attractive to doctors in rural areas with limited resources. The iPhone's connectivity capabilities also make it simple for scientists to send images around the world for diagnostic assistance.

Eggs visualized by conventional and mobile phone microscopy. A and C are conventional microscope photos while B and D were taken with an iPhone. Photo from www.ajtmh.org.

You can learn more about the team's efforts in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Comments

Total comments: 4
Wildbegonia
By Wildbegonia (Mar 15, 2013)

Posted two days ago:
http://connect.dpreview.com/forums/post/51025072

1 upvote
Osvaldo Cristo
By Osvaldo Cristo (Mar 15, 2013)

It reminds me a popular history I listened in my college in 1980: Americans spent millions to develop a pen to write at zero gravity environment in the space missions. Russians used a pencil. C´mon boys...

5 upvotes
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (Mar 15, 2013)

Come on now. Is it expensive to buy a decent microscope? These doctors are earning at least 6 digits a year and they can't afford to buy a microscope?

2 upvotes
Christoph Stephan
By Christoph Stephan (Mar 16, 2013)

In Tanzania, they do not earn 6 digits a year. Also, the microscope is not that portable to be brought to patients in remote locations. Conditions are not comparable to industrialised countries with high population density and roads everywhere.

1 upvote
Total comments: 4
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