Finnish-Swedish research group develops algorithm-based diagnostic aid for malaria

A Finnish-Swedish research collaboration recently developed a diagnostic aid for malaria infection that uses algorithms similar to those used in facial recognition to provide a visualization of the infection.

According to research published in PLOS One scientific journal, a thin layer of blood is smeared on a microscope and analyzed. Red blood cells from the sample are ranked based on the probability of infection, and images of the most likely infected cells are presented in a panel for final diagnosis by a healthcare professional, Science Daily reports.

The research indicates that the accuracy of the new method is comparable to criteria laid out by the World Health Organization (WHO)-more than 90 percent of infected samples were accurately identified based on the new diagnostic.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki's Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM), which developed the method in collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, said the diagnostic aid does not replace but facilitates the whole diagnostic process, according to Science Daily.

The researchers plan to apply the new testing system to cancer diagnostics in tissue samples, as well as other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. In the next phase of the project, the group will test the system in combination with mobile microscopy devices also developed by the researchers.

"The new method of imaging and analysis can revolutionize the point of care diagnostics of not only malaria but also several diseases where diagnosis depends on microscopy," Vinod Diwan, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet, said, Science Daily reports. "The action may lead to 'market rupture' in the field of disease diagnostics."