Smartphone diagnostics–laboratory tests performed by smartphones–have been popping up lately as a way to bring laboratories to low resource settings or make diagnostics quicker and easier everywhere. These include diagnosing eye disease, diabetes, or kidney damage, ELIZA tests for HIV and syphilis, and bloodborne parasitic infections.
The latest entry in the handheld-laboratory game is a test for the Loa loa parasite, also known as the African eye worm. Traditionally, this parasite can diagnosed with examining a stained blood smear for microfilariae. This, of course, requires reagents, equipment, and time. However, in order to treat patients with onchocerciasis or lymphatic filariasis, it’s imperative to know if they have a concomitant infection with Loa loa. A co-infection can mean serious side effects for the patient once drugs are administered. Using a smartphone attachment and the phone’s camera, a sample can be examined in less than three minutes.
–Kelly Swails, MT(ASCP), is a laboratory professional, recovering microbiologist, and web editor for Lab Medicine.