Malaria diagnosis made easy with smart phone app

Malaria kills nearly 1 million children a year, mostly in developing countries with little infrastructure and few resources. For the 9th Imagine Cup 2011 - a student contest sponsored by Microsoft, student entrants were asked to “imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems.” Tristan Gibeau 25, a graduate computer engineering student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and his team developed an ‘app’, LifeLens, to detect malaria.

The smart phone application was the idea of team member Wilson To, a 25-year-old graduate student in comparative pathology at the University of California at Davis. It builds upon a mobile microscope concept that To and a different team created to win last year's Imagine Cup national finals.

The LifeLens ‘app’ can help reduce the number of malaria cases by speeding diagnosis of the disease and by reducing the need for an expensive and often unavailable laboratory to spot the parasite in blood. Gibeau, the project's software designer said, “It's going to make a difference in trying to contain the outbreak of malaria. In the big picture, it'll hopefully help in the fight against most diseases out there and make everybody's life a little easier.”

He explained that the software application, which runs on a Windows Phone 7 handset with a special lens attached to the phone camera, can take a picture of a blood sample, process the data to detect malaria parasites, quantify how much malaria is in the sample and point the parasites out to the phone user. “It actually draws a red box around the clusters of malaria, and it actually notifies you how many it found,” Gibeau said. Gibeau is planning to expand the technology to allow the diagnosis of sickle cell disease and other diseases, and the student also hopes to eventually make a living out of developing the concept further. “From different conversations we've had with investors, we feel that this definitely is a money-maker,” he said.

Gibeau said the team is working toward patenting and marketing the new application.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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