iPhone Microscope Helps Diagnose Intestinal Worm Infections
March 13, 2013

iPhone Microscope Helps Diagnose Intestinal Worm Infections

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

You know all those times when you just wish your iPhone was able to become a microscope? Well, now it can.

Scientists have turned an iPhone 4S into a microscope, capable of diagnosing intestinal worm infections in schoolchildren in Tanzania, according to the BBC. The team attached an $8 ball lens to the handset´s camera lens, and used a cheap torch and double-sided tape to create an improvised microscope.

After upgrading the iPhone camera to micro-status, the team took pictures of stool samples placed on lab slides, wrapped in cellophane and taped to the phone. They studied the pictures for the presence of eggs.

The team double-checked their iPhone results with a laboratory light microscope and determined they were able to pick up 70 percent of the samples with infections.

"Ultimately we'd like something like this to be a useful diagnostic test," researcher Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who specializes in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Toronto General Hospital, told the BBC. "We want to put it in the hands of someone who might be able to use it," he said.

He mentioned that 70 percent isn't good enough yet and that they hope to be above 80 percent eventually.

"The technology is out there," Bogoch told the news agency. "We want to use materials that are affordable and easy to procure."

The researchers wrote in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene that mobile phone diagnostic technology will likely contribute to the diagnosis of infections and non-infectious etiologies in areas that may not have equipment to do so.

"A first-generation mobile phone microscope using a ball lens had modest diagnostic yield for soil-transmitted helminth infection," the authors wrote in the journal. "However, newer technologies may further improve mobile phone diagnostic capabilities, but they require additional field testing in different epidemiologic settings."

In 2011, a team of researchers was able to transform an iPhone into a medical-quality imaging and chemical detection device. They also used a ball lens, and were able to produce a magnification at about 5X that, when paired with the camera, could resolve features on the order of 1.5 microns.

This team also created a spectrometer with their iPhone, using a short plastic tube covered at both ends with black electrical tape. They believe their iPhone spectroscope could help measure the amount of oxygen in the blood and help diagnose chemical markers of disease.