A mobile phone mounted with a super-cheap paper microscope can detect presence of malarial parasites in the blood in 10 seconds, says an Indian researchers' team, which has developed a system that archives data and maps real-time distribution of the disease in a particular locality.
Dubbed "Centaur", the framework for detection, monitoring and mitigation of the deadly disease has been created by Nilanjan Daw, Debapriya Paul and Nilanjana Dutta Roy from Institute of Engineering and Management, in collaboration with Arindam Biswas of IIEST, Shibpur.
It aims to eradicate human error, enhance diagnosis in remote areas and enable treatment as fast as possible.
"The set-up uses a paper microscope, Foldscope, with the help of a mobile camera. When you adjust the camera a little, it clicks a magnified image (enabled by the microscope) of the blood sample. That image is stored by the camera.
"Through internet connection and via an app, the image is transmitted to a server hosted by our institute. Then an algorithm developed by our team will process the image and will be able to find out whether malarial parasites are there or not," Biswas told a media meet here.
Foldscope is popularly known as the "$1 Microscope" developed by Manu Prakash and his team at Stanford University. It is pocket-size and can be folded into a microscope origami-style.
"The computation and detection takes 10 to 12 seconds," Biswas added.
The diagnosis is relayed back to the remote client and the case details are archived for future reference.
"A doctor registered in our database can access the data," Biswas said.
Since it links GPS data with the test case, the system provides real-time data pertaining to malaria outbreaks.
"The system generates a real-time disease heat map which gets updated to reflect each case tested by the system, giving an always-up-to-date view of the malaria breakout scenario of an area, providing health care workers with the much-needed early warning before an imminent epidemic," Daw said.
The detection kit, including the Foldscope, has a manufacturing cost of Rs 80.
"It costs only Rs 10 per test against a drop of blood through a pin-prick. We are planning to have a small camera-based, internet and GPS-enabled device for remote areas where people may not have mobile phones. It has an accuracy of 90 percent. The algorithm can also be developed for other diseases, including dengue," Biswas added.