Friday, December 16, 2011

Phones to diagnose infections

     The possibilities of  the mobile  phone seem endless  and many of them still undiscovered.According to researchers, if the device has a camera could be helpful for medical diagnostics in areas where access to health services is very poor. 
            To demonstrate its potential as a medical assistant, Coosje Tuijin and his team from the Dutch Royal Tropical Institute, have launched a pilot study in Kampala (Uganda)."In countries with low and middle income there are many obstacles: poverty, long distances, poor communication between doctors and rural health centers, gifted, and so on."  article published in the journal PLos ONE"

         Also the authors note, their "services microscopy in the laboratory are inadequate and lack of experience and maintenance, poor technology, poor quality and scarce supplies in general." Microscopy is precisely one of the "most important procedures for diagnosis and control of infections such as tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhea andurine." Because of these deficiencies, therefore, "these diseases are underdiagnosed and poorly treated.

        The Dutch researchers propose a simple solution: the mobile  phone camera photos. Of course, should have internet connection (mobile coverage is expanding rapidly, evenin remote areas) and special software to transfer data taken by the camera to a central server that is accessible to staff laboratory that, after reviewing the information, to respond with a definitive diagnosis (through a text message or voice).

              This involves incorporating the mobile into the microscope and capture the image that contains the sample of urine or blood. As reflected in the article,is enough just a two-megapixel camera for the picture to be clear. In the laboratory will receive graphical information through a data platform, so they can analyze it and determine whether there is infection or not. Even it can be concluded at what stage of the infection. 
"This is very useful for establishing treatment strategies," the researchers emphasize.

        The only limitation that "we observed in this system is that currently we can only attach one or very few images to each message, but this is not a problem." The potential of this approach seems promising in countries like Uganda, although further studiesmust first consider the preparation of samples and other factors that may influence the quality of the images.


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