Breaking News
January 24, 2019 - Mice transmit brain benefits of enriched upbringing to non-enriched offspring
January 24, 2019 - FDA authorizes marketing of new test to aid in the diagnosis of M. gen. infections
January 24, 2019 - Health Tip: Simple CPR – Drugs.com MedNews
January 24, 2019 - Diabetes in America, 3rd Edition
January 24, 2019 - Bangladesh ‘Tree Man’ returns to hospital as condition worsens
January 24, 2019 - Costs of gun-related hospitalizations, readmissions examined in study
January 24, 2019 - Good health literacy linked to better adherence to blood pressure medications among Hispanics
January 24, 2019 - Only a minority of patients in the U.S. with type 1 diabetes achieve treatment goals
January 24, 2019 - High fat reduces efficiency of the immune system to fight infectious disease
January 24, 2019 - FDA grants clearance to Hologic’s assay for detection of common sexually transmitted infections
January 24, 2019 - Study highlights need for reliable therapeutic targets for prevention, treatment of cardiovascular diseases
January 24, 2019 - Next step toward replacement therapy in type 1 diabetes
January 24, 2019 - “Scientific serendipity” identifies link between type of RNA and autism
January 24, 2019 - Trump Zeroes In On Surprise Medical Bills In White House Chat With Patients, Experts
January 24, 2019 - Unique form of chronic sinusitis found in older patients
January 24, 2019 - NUS researchers make muscle recovery easier for patients with ingenious medical device
January 24, 2019 - Specific cognitive deficits found in individuals with spinal cord injury
January 24, 2019 - An essential reference for diagnostic ultrasonography and biopsy of the thyroid gland
January 24, 2019 - Proteus Digital Health Launches Digital Oncology Medicines to Improve Patient Outcomes
January 24, 2019 - Study looking to prevent type 1 diabetes follows children into adolescence
January 24, 2019 - Nice doctors make a difference
January 23, 2019 - Blood vessel discovery could advance our knowledge of osteoporosis
January 23, 2019 - New esophageal cancer test uses genetic biomarkers to detect changes in esophagal cells
January 23, 2019 - Study evaluates first-ever Robotic Visualization System for neurosurgery
January 23, 2019 - Scientists reveal new mechanism that could lead to specific treatment of strokes and seizures
January 23, 2019 - Both educational level and occupational orientation predict mother’s smoking during pregnancy
January 23, 2019 - How to (gently) get your child to brush their teeth
January 23, 2019 - Short-term hospital readmissions for gun injuries cost $86 million a year | News Center
January 23, 2019 - New certified reference material for testing residual solvents in cannabis
January 23, 2019 - Gene-edited chickens could prevent future flu pandemic
January 23, 2019 - Cardiovascular disease risk begins even before birth
January 23, 2019 - Younger patients receiving kidney transplant more likely to live longer, shows data
January 23, 2019 - Skin samples hold early signs of prion disease, research suggests
January 23, 2019 - Researchers discover how body initiates repair mechanisms that limits damage to myelin sheath
January 23, 2019 - Fecal transplant from certain donors better than others
January 23, 2019 - Risk for Uninsurance in AMI Patients Reduced With Medicaid Expansion
January 23, 2019 - Readmissions reduction program may be associated with increase in patient-level mortality
January 23, 2019 - Fostering translation and communication in medicine and beyond
January 23, 2019 - To Fight Fatty Liver, Avoid Sugary Foods and Drinks
January 23, 2019 - TPU scientists develop new implants that double the rate of bone lengthening in kids
January 23, 2019 - New sessions at Pittcon 2019
January 23, 2019 - Insilico to present latest findings in AI for Drug Discovery at 3rd Annual SABPA FTD Forum
January 23, 2019 - Opioid overdose patients can be safely discharged an hour after administration of naloxone
January 23, 2019 - Scientists find bacterial extracellular vesicles in human blood
January 23, 2019 - Researchers use modified type of flu virus to develop new therapies for prostate cancer
January 23, 2019 - Researchers gain new insights into development of necrotizing enterocolitis in preemies
January 23, 2019 - Medical expert advises people with epilepsy not to stockpile medicines
January 23, 2019 - CDC study explores link between smoking and clinical outcomes of assisted reproductive technology
January 23, 2019 - Study outlines research priorities for improving pediatric patient care and safety
January 23, 2019 - Bedfont to exhibit NObreath FeNO monitor at Arab Health 2019
January 23, 2019 - Nicotinamide riboside supplementation confers significant physiological benefits to mothers and offspring
January 23, 2019 - Increasing temperatures may help preserve crop nutrition
January 23, 2019 - Many Oncologists in the Dark About LGBTQ Health Needs
January 23, 2019 - Epigenetic change causes fruit fly babies to inherit diet-induced heart disease
January 23, 2019 - Erasing memories could reduce relapse rates among drug addicts
January 23, 2019 - African Americans who smoke cigarettes are more likely to develop peripheral artery disease
January 23, 2019 - Unique data combination helps FinnGen researchers to fund links between genetic factors and health
January 23, 2019 - Parents’ mental health problems associated with reactive attachment disorder in children
January 23, 2019 - Graphene Flagship project studies impact of graphene and related materials on our health
January 23, 2019 - The connection between the Pope and contraceptive pills
January 23, 2019 - Prior dengue infection could protect children from symptomatic Zika
January 23, 2019 - Previous dengue virus infection associated with protection from symptomatic Zika
January 23, 2019 - VISTA checkpoint implicated in pancreatic cancer immunotherapy resistance
January 23, 2019 - The Tiny Camera That Could Revolutionize Cardiovascular Surgery
January 23, 2019 - Peptide isolated from soil fungi has antitumor and antibacterial properties
January 23, 2019 - TGen identifies polio-like virus as potential cause of Acute Flaccid Myelitis outbreak
January 23, 2019 - Migrants and refugees do not bring disease and are at greater health risk themselves says WHO
January 23, 2019 - Examing the effects of menopause in workplace
January 23, 2019 - Enemy number 1 – Air pollution and climate change top of WHO agenda
January 23, 2019 - Two Positive Phase III studies of Tafenoquine for the Radical Cure of Plasmodium vivax Malaria Published in The New England Journal of Medicine
January 23, 2019 - World Trade Center responders at increased risk for head and neck cancers
January 23, 2019 - Low-sugar diet leads to significant improvement in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in boys
January 23, 2019 - Chaos in bodily regulation can optimize our immune system, finds study
January 23, 2019 - Short, text-based exercises can increase happiness for adults recovering from substance use disorders
January 23, 2019 - Body size may have greater influence on women’s lifespan than men
January 23, 2019 - Groundbreaking tool helps visualize neuronal activity with near-infrared light
January 23, 2019 - Prior dengue immunity in children may be protective against symptomatic Zika
January 23, 2019 - Holocaust survivors with PTSD and their offspring exhibit more unhealthy behavior patterns
January 23, 2019 - Scientists discover new genetic mutations causing inherited deaf-blindness
January 23, 2019 - UC team designs new naloxone-dispensing smart device
Researchers use smartphone to diagnose people infected with Loa loa worm

Researchers use smartphone to diagnose people infected with Loa loa worm

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

The case contained what appeared to be three ordinary iPhones. But the California researchers believed these phones could do something extraordinary — help quell river blindness, the second-leading cause of preventable blindness in the world.

There is already an effective treatment, a medication that can kill the baby worms that cause the blindness. And when nearly everyone in a community takes the drug every year for a decade or so, it can eliminate the disease from the area.

But treating communities widely for river blindness is a risky proposition: The treatment can cause coma or death in a small segment of the population that harbors a different parasite — another worm known as Loa loa. That’s why large swaths of Sub-Saharan Africa have been denied treatment for nearly two decades — because the cure for river blindness for certain people can prove far worse than the disease.

And that’s where Silicon Valley technology comes in. The Berkeley researchers figured out that they could quickly determine who has the Loa loa worm using a smartphone, customized to work like a microscope. They could then skip the medication for those people and give it to everyone else. Kamgno, who received the latest version of the phones in 2016, dubbed the mobile microscopes “revolutionary.”

Parasite expert Dr. Joseph Kamgno examines a new version of a cellphone-based microscope in his research facility in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The device, created at the University of California-Berkeley, will help health workers treat communities affected by river blindness. (Brian Rinker for KHN)

The gadgets, called LoaScopes, are part of a broader effort to harness technology and innovation in the U.S., including California’s Silicon Valley, to fight age-old diseases in the developing world.

Over the years, major California universities — UC-Berkeley, UC-Davis, UCLA — have built cellphone microscopes geared to look at other bloodborne diseases in Africa and Asia, such as malaria and tuberculosis. UC-San Francisco researchers are using satellite images on Google Earth Engine to construct real-time maps of breeding conditions for malaria that can help predict infection rates in rural villages.

To accomplish their missions, nongovernmental and civil society organizations “are flocking to Silicon Valley,” he said.

Mobile Microscopes And Wiggly Worms

The LoaScope was created in UC-Berkeley’s Fletcher Lab, named after Daniel Fletcher, a wild-haired scientist who discovered 10 years ago the potential of cellphones as microscopes. Basically, the camera on the phone is positioned over a magnifying lens to capture a sample on a slide. Software can then analyze whatever is on the slide and transmit it to the cloud.

Standard light microscopes aren’t really mobile, and require electricity and a trained lab tech to operate. The mobile microscope is cheap, compact and can be used by anyone familiar with mobile phones, which are increasingly common around the world, even in remote villages.

  1. Researchers test the latest version of the LoaScope in a village in Cameroon. (Brian Rinker for KHN)
  2. Students, researchers and health workers learn to use the LoaScope, a cellphone microscope that can detect dangerous levels of a parasite called Loa loa. These nematodes can complicate treatment for river blindness. (Brian Rinker for KHN)

The discovery spun off into a private business called CellScope, while Fletcher’s academic lab continued to research smartphones as microscopes for the university.

Several years ago, Fletcher and his team had never heard of river blindness and knew very little about neglected tropical diseases in general. The team eventually became part of a mobile phone revolution in the developing world, in which public health researchers were ratcheting up efforts to use these pocket computers to address health problems.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have bankrolled the LoaScope project since its inception in 2011, spending more than $5 million to date.

River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is a nasty disease that has burdened Africa for as long as anyone can remember. The disease is spread by black flies, which drop off and pick up worms as they suck people’s blood. The symptoms — terrible itching, rotting skin and, after decades of infection, blindness — are caused by early stage worm larvae that flood the body after adult worms mate.

The river blindness medication, ivermectin, kills these baby worms effectively. But when a person harboring tens of thousands of Loa loa worms in each drop of blood takes ivermectin, all the baby worms die off in a sort of mass extinction, causing potentially lethal brain swelling.

Two family members in a village in Cameroon are partially blind due to onchocerciasis, or river blindness. (Brian Rinker for KHN)

Upsides And Downsides

The small lab in Berkeley got involved with this complicated worm conundrum through a parasitic disease expert at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Thomas Nutman was tasked with finding a technology that could help solve the Loa loa problem. At first, he considered a project at UCLA in which a cellphone picture could be taken in the field, uploaded to the cloud and then analyzed by someone sitting at a computer in California.

It sounded good in theory, but because thousands of people had to be tested before treatment, Nutman needed answers on the spot. Recalling work by Fletcher and his team, Nutman hopped on a plane to the Bay Area to meet them.

Fletcher and scientist Mike D’Ambrosio knew they had the technology to see the worms — but figuring out how to see and count them in just a couple of minutes “seemed daunting.”

“That’s where we had the idea to use the motion of the worm as a way to see it,” D’Ambrosio said. Early stage Loa loa larvae thrash around in the blood more vigorously than other worms. So D’Ambrosio and his colleagues created an algorithm to identify Loa loa based on its motion.

The LoaScope is an iPhone that attaches to a plastic box made by a 3-D printer. A blood sample on a plastic tube is inserted into the black box, which contains optics and hardware. Press a button on the screen of the iPhone and it takes a video of the blood sample and runs the algorithm.

But relying on bioengineers in the tech-savvy San Francisco Bay Area to create a solution comes with downsides familiar to anyone who works there: shutdowns and updates.

Months before the latest device was scheduled to ship out, the company the scientists used to sync all their data gathered from the LoaScope to the cloud shut down, forcing a rewrite of the related software code. Then the hardware company that made an essential microcontroller board quit production.

“That is the cost we pay for trying to build something out of consumer-based electronics and using cloud software that is always changing,” said D’Ambrosio, who became the lead research scientist for the LoaScope project.

Kamgno, Cameroon’s leading expert on parasitic worms, talks on the phone in his research facility in the capital, Yaoundé. (Brian Rinker for KHN)

Kamgno stands on the banks of the Sanaga River in Cameroon, breeding grounds for the black flies linked to river blindness. (Brian Rinker for KHN)

On the other hand, he added, “the benefit is enormous. We’re able to build these integrated devices that do amazing things” at low cost.

Another problem the scientists had was figuring out who would pay for the devices.

“The business side of it is very unclear,” Fletcher said. “Part of the problem is that there isn’t a market for neglected tropical diseases.”

The Gates Foundation doesn’t typically pay to implement projects on a global scale. However, the foundation is negotiating a deal for a company to manufacture 10,000 LoaScopes, Nutman said.

Back in Cameroon, Kamgno’s research findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November, showed that the LoaScope allowed wide treatment with ivermectin, and produced no adverse reactions in formerly “off-limits” communities. Kamgno’s research team is now training local health workers to use the LoaScope, and other countries soon may follow.

“We were surprised and happy to see that after only two days of training, the local people were able to do the treatment in their own community,” said Kamgno. “Almost all the young people have cellphones, and they can understand the LoaScope so quickly.”

Source:

https://www.berkeley.edu/

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles