The Smartphone that diagnoses Malaria


311221_19160647In Rwanda, malaria has been known to account for the majority of deaths in the country and as a result, government and individuals have over the years invented different platforms against malaria.

To help in the fight against the disease, biomedical engineers from the Texas A&M University have developed a device with technology that transforms a smartphone into a mobile polarized microscope that diagnoses malaria.

“The way they diagnose malaria now is with a microscope, but it is with a big bench-top microscope that is relatively complicated to use, takes a trained technician, and you have to have the facility for that scope in a centralized lab somewhere. So basically what we are taking is that gold standard and making it into a portable device,” said Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Dr Gerard Coté.

Once the device is attached to the smartphone, the diagnosis only takes a few minutes to complete using a mobile app.  “An application software would take that image and automatically count the number of red blood cells, count the number of parasites over different fields of view. And then by doing that you can determine if they have malaria or not,” added Dr Coté.

The accompanying device uses the smartphone’s camera features to produce high-resolution pictures of objects ten times smaller than the thickness of a human hair.

Rwanda has recently experience an increase in malaria cases, some of which have resulted in the loss of lives.  Undoubtedly, early and accurate diagnosis of malaria is critical for effective disease management and malaria surveillance.  The technology used by the device is expected to assist in that regard.

The team behind the invention has made sure that the add-on device is available at an affordable price.

One of the ways that technology is improving lives in rural communities.  Well done to the engineers!