Smartphone Used To Detect Parasites in Blood

It seems as if every year, smartphones are getting smarter. As the technology increases, phones have become even more convenient, as they can pretty much be used to perform just about any task. In a matter of years, people have gone from checking their emails, updating their Facebook status and posting selfies to using their smartphone to detect parasites in blood.

The app, currently called Cellscope Loa, was first used during a study in Cameroon when researchers from the University of California at Berkeley were looking to identify candidates for medication. The disease Onchocerciasis, which is known to many as river blindness, has affected thousands of people in this area. Before offering medication to the people, testing needed to be done and researchers needed a laboratory that was cheap and portable. As a result, they came up with the idea to use their smartphones to test for parasites in blood.

How does the app work? Simply prick the finger, fill small a tube with blood and place tube in the 3-D printed base. After the tube is placed, align smartphone camera over the blood sample, start the app and wait for the image-processing system to analyze any wiggly occurring and a count to be reported.

CellScope Loa helped researchers identify 33 infected people and the results were comparable to those of an actual microscope that would have been used for testing. There has been talks of using the device to test at least 30,000 people this summer in Cameroon.

Researchers at the University of Berkeley are not the only ones making history with their smartphones. Scientists from Columbia University created a smartphone powered device that tests blood for signs of HIV and syphilis. They first tested the device in Rwanda. Research is also underway at Massachusetts General Hospital, where they are looking into creating a medical device that will use tissue samples to detect cancer.

Turning smartphones into medical tools has given researchers the convenience of testing blood anywhere at anytime. For researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, one smartphone could potentially help them wipe out river blindness. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, they should have no problem doing so.