Smartphones have become a popular tool among physicians for looking up clinical information and other tasks, but the devices are starting to be used more often for diagnostics as well. Because they’re becoming ubiquitous the world over, smartphones promise to bring cheap medical care to remote regions of the world.
To that end, an international team of researchers has reported in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene that a very simple microscope they built using an iPhone, an $8 lens, and some sticky tape, was used successfully to detect the eggs of soil-transmitted parasitic worms (helminths). They compared their cheapo solution to a proper microscope while diagnosing children in rural Tanzania and have shown that, at least for some nematodes, the iPhone microscope was sufficient in detecting worm eggs; while for others not so.
Here’s the setup description from the study:
We transformed a mobile phone into a microscope by temporarily mounting a 3-mm ball lens
(Edmund Optics, Barrington, NJ) to the camera of an iPhone 4S (Apple, Cupertino, CA) with double-sided tape (3M, St. Paul, MN) similar to the work described by Smith and others. A small hole was punctured in the middle of the double-sided tape, and the ball lens was positioned in this hole. The ball lens was then centered over the iPhone camera lens, with the tape holding the lens to the camera for stability. Kato–Katz thick smear slides were directly placed up against the double-sided tape, such that a small space less than 1 mm separated the lens from the slide (Figure 1). The mobile phone microscope was placed on top of a slide, which was illuminated from below by a generic, small, handheld incandescent flashlight powered by one AA battery. Images were viewed on the mobile phone screen, and magnification was increased with the digital zoom function; we estimate that this method could achieve an equivalent of 50–60u magnification.
Study in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene: MOBILE PHONE MICROSCOPY FOR HELMINTH DIAGNOSIS