Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed an innovative smartphone attachment for field-based diagnosis of malaria. Called Mobile-Optical-Polarization Imaging Device (MOPID), the device attaches to the camera on the back of a smartphone or tablet, and together with a companion app can detect birefringent hemozoin in histological samples, which is indicative of malarial infection.
The current “gold standard” of malaria detection involves evaluation of Giemsa-stained blood smears via bright-field microscopy. Unfortunately this process requires skilled technicians and laboratory environments that are seldom found in the regions that are most in need. More affordable solutions which are available for field-testing tend to report many false positive diagnoses, whereas bench-top polarized light microscopy systems, while better, are large, expensive and complex to operate.
MOPID has demonstrated imaging properties that compare favorably with a reference Leica DMLM polarized microscope.The MOPID comes to the rescue with malaria detection at a cost that should be palatable in underserved countries. In its current form, the device has demonstrated imaging properties that compare favorably with a reference Leica DMLM polarized microscope – a resolution of 1.05 μm, system magnification in the range of 50x, and field of view measuring 0.78 mm x 0.79 mm.
The MOPID is still in the prototype phase and the next step involves field-testing in Rwanda. Before embarking on this journey, researchers want to first lower the physical profile of the device, improve upon human factors engineering and user-interface components, and lower costs. The ultimate goal is have MOPID diagnostic tests going for as low a $1.00 per result, anywhere in the world. A bold vision, we would add.