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Researchers Use Smartphone Camera To Look For Parasites In Blood

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Researchers have developed a new device called CellScope Loa that uses a smartphone to detect parasites in a person's blood.

Engineers at the University of California (UC) Berkeley have revealed that they have made a mobile phone microscope, which can accurately identify parasites in the blood. The latest advancement may help aid efforts to find critical medical information about a patient on the field.

The latest device is paired with a smartphone. A drop of blood is collected on a capillary unit which is inserted in the device. With a touch on the smartphone's screen, the camera on the phone captures the video of the blood sample. The smartphone swiftly displays the results on the screen using an app.

"We previously showed that mobile phones can be used for microscopy, but this is the first device that combines the imaging technology with hardware and software automation to create a complete diagnostic solution," says Daniel Fletcher, an associate professor in the department of bioengineering in UC.

Fletcher suggests that the device provides accurate results, which can help aid workers start treatment as soon as possible.

The pilot study was conducted in Cameroon as the country is battling diseases such as and lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis, or river blindness, caused by parasitic worms.

The scientists explain that the CellScope technology uses motion and does not use fluorescent stains or molecular markers for the detection of worms in the blood. The results from the new device were as accurate as from conventional techniques.

Fletcher added that the compact device may help aid workers for the eradication of ignored tropical diseases like elephantiasis and river blindness in Africa. There are drugs that can be used for treating these neglected tropical diseases; however, the current technology is not sufficient to identify people who are infected with the disease.

The study highlights that river blindness is the second-leading reason of infectious blindness in the entire world. Similarly, lymphatic filariasis that leads to elephantiasis is the second-leading reason of disability across the world. However, the majority of the infections are reported from Africa. The researchers will use the CellScope device to test blood samples of 40,000 people in Cameroon.

Scientists are also hoping that the same technique can also be used in the future for testing other diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), malaria or helminths.

The study has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Check out a short video of how the new device works to detect parasites in blood.

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