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An improved version of the MalariaScope

Excellence is a result of constant improvement. Bearing this thought in mind, Fraunhofer AICOS is now leading a new version of the MalariaScope, a project which first started in 2013 and is now entering a new phase, with upgrades and advanced enhancements.

One of the goals of the MalariaScope project is to develop a cheap alternative to the current microscopes, that can easily be adapted to a smartphone and to be used in the field. The aim is to use the smartphone built-in camera to capture the images for further analysis. The process consists of placing the smartphone in the adapter along with the blood smear, and have the smartphone image sensor to record a set of magnified images.

This collection of images will then be processed and examined, providing an analysis report of the blood smear. The great improvement in this version of the prototype is the inclusion of the automated stage. A self-powered motorized automated stage system was developed in order to move the blood smear and allow the automatic capture of several snapshots of the sample.

The capture of the images ceased to be manual and became fully automatic through small engines autonomously controlled by the phone, to get the desired number of images. In addition, researchers addressed many of the shortcomings of the first version of the prototype, specifically in terms of stability.

The MalariaScope is included in the Focus Area of Information and Communications Technologies for Development (ICT4D) and is being developed in cooperation with the Research and Development Unit of the Infectious Diseases Department of the Instituto Nacional de Saúde Dr. Ricardo Jorge in Porto.

Malaria is a leading cause of death and disease in many developing countries, where young children and pregnant women are the most affected groups. In 2013, there were an estimated 198 million cases of Malaria, which caused approximately 584.000 Malaria deaths. Around 90% of Malaria deaths occured in Africa, where the lack of access to Malaria diagnosis is largely due to a shortage of expertise, being the shortage of equipment the second factor. This lack of expertise for Malaria diagnosis frequently results on the increase of false positives, since prescription of medication is based only on symptoms. Thus, there is an urgent need of new tools that can facilitate the rapid and easy diagnosis of Malaria, especially in areas with limited access to quality healthcare services.