Mini-microscope detects disease at point-of-care

Researchers in Finland and Sweden have developed a microscopy device that can be used to perform diagnosis at the point-of-care.

The advance is expected to take microscopy out of laboratories for use in areas with basic levels of healthcare thanks to novel techniques for high-resolution imaging and image transfer over data networks.

The team – made up of researchers from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, FIMM, University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden – was led by Dr. Johan Lundin and Dr. Ewert Linder.

Together, they modified inexpensive imaging devices, such as a webcam and a mobile phone camera, into a mini-microscope.

The test sample was placed directly on the exposed surface of the image sensor chip after removal of the optics.

The resolution of such mini-microscopes was dependent on the pixel size of the sensor, but sufficient for identification of several pathogenic parasites.

In their study published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases the researchers were able to use the mini-microscopes they constructed to yield images of parasitic worm eggs present in urine and stools of infected individuals.

They first utilised this novel approach to detect urinary schistosomiasis, a severely under diagnosed infection affecting hundreds of millions, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.

For diagnostics at the point-of-care they developed a highly specific pattern recognition algorithm that analyses the image from the mini-microscope and automatically detects the parasite eggs.

‘The results can be exploited for constructing simple imaging devices for low-cost diagnostics of urogenital schistosomiasis and other neglected tropical infectious diseases’, Dr. Lundin said in a statement. ‘With the proliferation of mobile phones, data transfer networks and digital microscopy applications the stage is set for alternatives to conventional microscopy in endemic areas.’