Neida Ramos, a PhD student, presented the conclusions of a study involving the MalariaScope solution during her internship at FhP-AICOS (Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS) last week. The results demonstrate that Angolan health professionals show a deep interest in this easy to use and low cost solution developed by FhP-AICOS.
Neida Ramos, an Angolan doctor currently pursuing her PhD in Tropical Diseases and Global Health at the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa (IHMT/UNL), chose to do her internship at FhP-AICOS after hearing about the centre's MalariaScope technology.
Malaria is one of the 10 most deadly diseases in the world, particularly in Africa. Malaria is endemic throughout Angolan territory, and diagnosis is currently based on the microscopic detection of malaria parasites in peripheral blood. However, definite diagnosis faces many hindrances, such as the time consuming nature and subjectivity of manual microscopy examination, lack of qualified professionals and adequate equipment, and even poor sample preparation. Thus, MalariaScopes’ potential to support malaria diagnosis in a simple, fast and affordable way caught the attention of this Angolan researcher.
The technology developed at FhP-AICOS is a mobile-based solution that provides an effective pre-diagnosis of malaria to be used in medically underserved areas. The presence of malaria parasites in peripheral blood is evaluated through the usage of fully automated 3D-printed smartphone microscope (termed μSmartScope), coupled to computer vision software based on machine-learning for the successful automatic detection of malaria parasites in microscopic images.
During her three week long rotation, Neida Ramos set out to get familiar with MalariaScope, characterize the current malaria diagnosis procedure at local health units in Angola and determine the degree of acceptance that health professionals in Angola would have if they could use the MalariaScope. Her conclusions, following an exploratory study based on an online survey applied to 38 Angolan health professionals, were presented last week at FhP-AICOS.
Through the survey, the researcher concluded that most professionals see patients with malaria symptoms on a daily basis, and identify as main constraints on current diagnosis procedure the lack of confidence in technicians’ microscopy evaluation and long waiting periods. This could be why, when faced with a detailed description of the MalariaScope technology, two-thirds of the respondents considered the MalariaScope solution a very important tool to perform a more accurate and quick determination of new cases of malaria.
Additionally, this study allowed the MalariaScope team to gain insight about the current reality and common practical difficulties experienced in Angolan health facilities. These outcomes will certainly impact the design of the field trials that are currently being planned, targeted at the validation of the MalariaScope solution in a malaria-endemic country.