iPhone camera helps scientists detect infections in rural Tanzania
Scientists working in rural Tanzania have found a fascinating new use for the iPhone camera: With a 3mm ball lens attached, the camera can be used to test for the presence of intestinal worms in young patients.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch of Toronto General Hospital partnered with experts from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute to create the affordable and highly portable microscope kit. A 3mm ball lens attached to the rear-facing iPhone camera lens allows for 50 to 60 times magnification of sample slides pressed against the lens and illuminated with a flashlight.
Bogoch and his team work to diagnose hookworm and other soil-transmitted helminth infections that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in infected children. Using the iPhone microscope kit, the scientists were able to detect 70% of infections in samples where the worms were present and 90% of infections in the samples where the contamination was heavy.
In an interview with the BBC, Bogoch revealed that his team is not done yet:
"70% (accuracy) isn't really good enough, we want to be above 80% and we're not quite there yet," he added.
"The technology is out there. We want to use materials that are affordable and easy to procure."
The iPhone microscope kit costs about $15, making it very attractive to doctors in rural areas with limited resources. The iPhone's connectivity capabilities also make it simple for scientists to send images around the world for diagnostic assistance.
You can learn more about the team's efforts in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.