A team of researchers at UC Berkeley have adapted its iPhone microscope project to allow them to identify blood parasites that can cause river blindness and elephantiasis. The project will allow identification of the parasites in under three minutes.
CellScope Loa is, essentially, a 3D-printed box that a smartphone can sit on top of, taking five-second videos of blood samples. The companion app then looks for signs of movement from the microscopic worms that, when left untreated, cause river blindness and elephantiasis.
While the drugs to treat river blindness and elephantiasis are easy for doctors to get their hands on, the medicine can cause severe brain damage or death in patients that are also suffering from Loa Loa, or African eye worm. Those possible consequences have stalled treatment programs.
The components used to build the CellScope Loa are relatively easy to acquire, consisting of an Arduino board, Bluetooth module, and an LED Array. Researchers plan to expand the hardware trial to around 40,000 people in Cameroon. If successful, the plan will expand.