Researchers Tony Hu and Dali Sun from the Arizona State University (ASU) Biodesign Institute in the US have developed a mobile phone adaptation of microscope-leveraging dark-field microscopy.

With brightly lit samples against a black background, the dark-field microscopy allows a clearer view with better contrast abilities.

Intended to aid in the fight against infectious diseases, the affordable, diagnostic mobile technology can be used at clinics, hospitals and health organisations.

Hu said: “With more and more powerful smartphones equipped with better cameras, this has spurred technology development for now using mobile phone cameras for many medical applications.”

The researchers used three-dimensional (3D) printing to create the first prototype of the new device, which includes a mobile phone attachment and a condenser to focus light onto a sample.

“The device is reported to have delivered results similar to those obtained using a standard dark-field microscope system.”

In addition to a battery-operated LED light, the device includes a slide reader and specially coated slides customised to identify a particular infectious disease and evaluate the severity of the infection.

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By GlobalData

Upon testing on a new nanoparticle-based serum assay designed for the diagnosis of tuberculosis, the device is reported to have delivered results similar to those obtained using a standard dark-field microscope system.

Hu noted: “These assays yielded robust results that were similar to, albeit less sensitive than, those obtained with a much more expensive and cumbersome desktop dark-field microscope system.”

It is expected that the less expensive nanoparticle-based detection system with the potential for adaptation to additional infectious diseases will help in early diagnosis and assessment of effective treatments.