SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2016

Cell phone microscope could detect malaria

Researchers and engineers are adapting cell phones to hold a clip-on component that effectively turns them into microscopes capable of detecting malaria in the field.

The process is simple, with the clip-on attaching somewhere near the cell phone’s camera, WTOP.com reports. The results could then turn the phone into a tool that is able to identify malaria parasites or spot clusters of tuberculosis cells.

Aydogan Ozcan, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of California - Los Angeles, invented the microscope process. He and his team plan to travel to Brazil later this year to field test the invention at malaria clinics.

According to the World Health Organization, malaria is responsible for the deaths of one in five children worldwide. Cheap and portable cell phone microscopes used for early and accurate detection in remote areas of the world could be a help in the fight against the disease.

Strong sales of video game consoles such as the Xbox have helped keep the cost of electronic components down and made cell phone microscopes possible. Ozcan said that his cell phone adapting tool could cost as little as five to ten dollars, WTOP.com reports. The tool could be marketed within two years if it receives the proper funding.

Ozcan told WTOP.com that his research could lead to further advances that allow cell phones to be used for other diagnostic purposes. He said that they could help detect tuberculosis bacteria and monitor the white blood cell counts of patients with HIV.