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Statistics from Addy-Tayie’s paper indicate that
there were 445,000 deaths from malaria in 2015 (World Health Organization
data). And although the US has invested significant amounts to see the disease
eliminated, WHO reports that ‘damning statistics’ have not been well received
around the world.
Types of malaria parasites and their development
stages. (Malaria Site, 2015).
“There are two main practices currently involved
with malaria diagnostics, namely; the standard microscope test and Rapid
Diagnostics Test otherwise called RDT. Whereas the standard microscope is the
most preferred choice for diagnostics; because of the detailed results it
provides, which then influences the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment;
the microscope facility requires some level of cost to acquire. This cost
involvement has influenced the low availability of the microscope in developing
countries and communities,” states Addy-Tayie.
The author goes on to point out it is critical
today to create more efficient ways to study the disease—and this begins with
the microscope. For his thesis in Materials Processing Technology at Arcada,
Tayie outlines the concept, along with research, design, and testing of a
microscope accessory for imaging from a smartphone. Research methodology
included interviews with healthcare workers, mainly meant to discern whether
they were using RDT kits or microscopy kits for diagnosis.
assumption with all the interviewees was that there is a very high possibility
that it is either the falciparum parasite causing the prevailing symptoms of
malaria or the symptoms cannot be attributed to malaria infection. In other
words, the other malaria causing parasites like vivax and others are not common
in the country.”
Microscopy (via a light microscope) was found to be
the most common type of diagnostic tool, although the equipment is admittedly
difficult to come by. Addy-Tayie realized that accessories for microscopy could
be created using all the classic benefits of 3D printing, reducing the amount
of man-power needed and eliminating the need to order parts from a factory or
go through a middleman.
And although it may be ironic that healthcare tools
and accessibility to medical treatment may be sparse while smartphones are
owned by the millions, this opens a portal to diagnostics, via microscopy
adapters. There may be other options available, but none seem to fit the bill
better than the mobile-optical-polarization (MOPID) imaging device as it can
take advantage of a simple smartphone camera in taking high resolution images.
The 3D printed fittings created for this study also work seamlessly, including:
The author states that this device can help in
diagnosing malaria quickly, offering microscopic resolution, ‘on par with
benchtop spectroscopy’; however, there is a degree of ‘optical know-how’
recommended for use with the product in terms of focusing and zooming.
The MOPID system
“The project was designed and implemented based on
the available lenses, and thus the resultant magnification. The microscopy
objectives concept which formed the basis for the design concept involved with
Project Design 2 allows for addition of extra tube lenses to enhance
magnification,” concluded the author.
“Therefore, further improvements could be made in
the future to achieve even higher magnification and resolution. However, WHO
recommends 1000X magnification for efficient malaria diagnosis. And the least
size of malaria parasite is around 0.001 mm; but the unaided eye can see a 0.1
mm object. Therefore, achieving about 140X magnification; for a 0.14 instead of
the recommended 1.0 mm is appreciable.”