Image: Pictures from malaria parasites taken with mobile phone cameras with different resolutions. (Photo courtesy of PLoS ONE).
A new study suggests that camera phones may be the future for assistance in medical diagnosis, especially in remote areas.
Researchers at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT; Amsterdam, The Netherlands) conducted a study in Uganda to determine the feasibility of using mobile phones for capturing microscopy images and transferring them to a central database for assessment, feedback, and educational purposes. To do so, images of microscopy samples were taken using a prototype connector that could fix a variety of mobile phones to a microscope. An information technology (IT) platform was set up for data transfer from a mobile phone to a website, including feedback by text messaging to the end user.
The results showed that clear images were captured using mobile phone cameras of 2 megapixels (MP), up to 5 MP. The images were sent by mobile internet to a website, where they were visualized and feedback could be provided to the sender by means of text message. The researchers concluded that with further system optimization, doctors might soon be able to take advantage of this virtual network to help more patients adequately in less time, which would be particularly valuable in remote and sparsely populated areas. The study was published on December 14, 2011, in the PLoS ONE.
“Such technological advances could improve diagnosis in peripheral health settings by empowering undereducated and insufficiently experienced health care and laboratory workers to meet quality standards,” said lead author Coosje Tuijn, PhD, of the department of biomedical research.
The system used was composed of a traditional light microscope on which was mounted a connector/positioning device, linking it to a Java-enabled mobile phone with a camera. The researchers used the 40× and the 100× oil immersion objectives of the Olympus CX 21, Olympus CX31, Olympus CX41 and Humascope (Human) light microscopes, and the 40× objectives of the Olympus CX21 FluoLED, Olympus BX41 and Nikon AFX-IIA fluorescent microscopes. Different camera phones were used, with image resolution varying from 0.3 MP to 5 MP. On some occasions, the digital zoom of the mobile phone camera was used to enlarge a specific area of the microscopy field and magnify the microorganism to be identified.
Royal Tropical Institute