Project Lead(s): Hammad Naseem
Tuberculosis (TB) affects nine million people annually and is highly infectious.
Sputum smear fluorescence microscopy is the recommended method to detect TB but accessibility is limited.
The objective of the project was to develop a device that converts a cellphone into a sputum smear reader for TB diagnosis in medically under-serviced regions of Pakistan.
The device combines a specialized lens, image-processing software and widely available camera phones.
The device, comprising of eight LEDs and a magnifying lens, can send live-streaming videos of a magnified sputum smear slide to a cellphone, using its own Wi-Fi signal.
The software is a graphical user interface (GUI) that displays the live-streaming video of the sputum smear slide to the operator.
The team was successful in developing the hardware to successfully capture microscopic images of sputum smear slides and to transfer the images to any Android or iOS mobile phone present within five meters of the device, using built-in Wi-Fi technology.
The team was unsuccessful in software development, as the image analysis application to study the microscopic image of a sputum smear slide and to provide meaningful diagnosis automatically could not operate on a cellphone.
Most state-of-the art, commercially available cellphones do not have the processing requirements needed to run the program, which currently only operates on a desktop computer.
However, with this device, a larger number of sputum smear specimens can be evaluated more quickly than with a conventional microscope.
To study this, a total of 638 sputum smear specimens were assessed from 172 men and 147 women.
These specimens were evaluated using conventional sputum smear microscopy, as well as the new device.
The results demonstrated that conventional microscopy took 64 hours while the new device took only 22 hours.
The device is battery powered, which is advantageous, given the numerous power failures in rural Pakistan.
Given the device’s simple nature, it is believed that it could alleviate the microscopy workload of laboratories in resource-limited settings, as well as decrease the time for evaluating a sputum smear specimen.
The project team will partner with the National Tuberculosis Control Program (NTP) in Pakistan, which will assist in policy regulation for implementing this solution to increase the case detection rate of TB in Pakistan.
The team plans to apply for Phase II Transition To Scale funding.