Stripped mobile phone camera turned into a mini-microscope for low-cost diagnostics

December 5, 2013
The test sample is placed directly on the exposed surface of the image sensor chip after removal of the optics.The resolution of such mini-microscopes is dependent on the pixel size of the sensor, but sufficient for identification of several pathogenic parasites. Credit: Johan Lundin Lab / Photographer: Heli Vilmi

Microscopy, being relatively easy to perform at low cost, is the universal diagnostic method for detection of most globally important parasitic infections. Methods developed in well-equipped laboratories are, however, difficult to maintain at the basic levels of the health care system due to lack of adequately trained personnel and resources.

Researchers at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, FIMM, University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have now shown that novel techniques for high-resolution imaging and image transfer over data networks may be utilized to solve these diagnostic problems.

The team led by Dr. Johan Lundin and Dr. Ewert Linder modified inexpensive imaging devices, such as a webcam selling for ten euros and a mobile phone camera, into a mini-microscope. The test sample was placed directly on the exposed surface of the image sensor chip after removal of the optics.

The resolution of such mini-microscopes was dependent on the pixel size of the sensor, but sufficient for identification of several pathogenic parasites.

In their study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases the researchers were able to use the mini-microscopes they constructed to yield images of parasitic worm eggs present in urine and stools of infected individuals. They first utilized this novel approach to detect urinary schistosomiasis, a severely under diagnosed infection affecting hundreds of millions, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. For diagnostics at the point-of-care they developed a highly specific pattern recognition algorithm that analyses the image from the mini-microscope and automatically detects the parasite eggs.

"The results can be exploited for constructing simple imaging devices for low-cost diagnostics of urogenital schistosomiasis and other neglected tropical infectious diseases", says Dr. Lundin. "With the proliferation of mobile phones, data transfer networks and digital microscopy applications the stage is set for alternatives to conventional microscopy in endemic areas."

Explore further: Big size multitouch display turned into a microscope (w/ video)

Related Stories

High-resolution microscopy without a lens

September 5, 2012

(Phys.org)—Over the past several years, major advances have been made at UCLA in the field of lens-less computational imaging technology, particularly in the design of lens-free holographic microscopes, which, because of ...

Scientists used iPhone to diagnose intestinal worms

March 12, 2013

Scientists used an iPhone and a camera lens to diagnose intestinal worms in rural Tanzania, a breakthrough that could help doctors treat patients infected with the parasites, a study said on Tuesday.

Pushing microscopy beyond standard limits

July 29, 2013

Engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have devised a method to convert a relatively inexpensive conventional microscope into a billion-pixel imaging system that significantly outperforms the best available ...

Recommended for you

In sub-Saharan Africa, cancer can be an infectious disease

August 26, 2016

In 1963, Irish surgeon Denis Parson Burkitt airmailed samples of an unusual jaw tumor found in Ugandan children to his colleague, Anthony Epstein, at Middlesex Hospital in London. Epstein, an expert in chicken viruses and ...

Zika virus may persist in the vagina days after infection

August 25, 2016

The Zika virus reproduces in the vaginal tissue of pregnant mice several days after infection, according to a study by Yale researchers. From the genitals, the virus spreads and infects the fetal brain, impairing fetal development. ...

Team discovers how Zika virus causes fetal brain damage

August 24, 2016

Infection by the Zika virus diverts a key protein necessary for neural cell division in the developing human fetus, thereby causing the birth defect microcephaly, a team of Yale scientists reported Aug. 24 in the journal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.