Scientists are reporting an advance in smartphone-based imaging that could help physicians in far-flung and resource-limited locations monitor how well treatments for infections are working by detecting individual viruses.
Their study on the light-weight device, which converts the phone into a powerful mini-microscope, appears in the journal ACS Nano.
Aydogan Ozcan and colleagues note that conventional imaging techniques for detecting disease-causing bacteria and viruses rely on expensive microscopes with multiple lenses and other bulky optical components. In places with limited resources, doctors have few options for determining how well a treatment is working.
The result is a portable imaging system that harnesses the digital power of today's smartphones to detect individual viruses and determine viral load — the severity of infection — which can indicate the effectiveness of a treatment. It only weighs six-and-a-half ounces, or little more than a baseball.
Using their new smartphone microscope, the scientists detected individual, fluorescently labeled human cytomegalovirus, a member of the herpes virus family that can be life-threatening in patients with low immunity. It's also one of the leading causes of virus-associated birth defects. The scientists conclude that the microscope "holds significant promise for various point-of-care applications such as viral load measurements or other biomedical tests conducted in remote or resource-limited environments."