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Lifelens introduces an innovative point-of-care smartphone application to address child mortality rates caused by the lack of detection and availability of treatment for malaria. The solution has immense potential to reduce the cost of diagnosis and enable children around the world to be treated with the current amount of funding.
Child mortality rates remain unacceptably high in an era of modern medicine. About 29,000 children under the age of five die every day, mainly from preventable causes[i]. This equates to nearly 21 deaths per minute. The particular magnitude of malaria in child mortality rates is staggering. With a mortality of 15–20%, there are over one million deaths per year due to Malaria, 85% of fatalities occurring with children under 5 years of age.
The current “state-of-the-art” in rural sub-Saharan Africa is the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) which consists of a cotton swab treated with a reactive agent. When in contact with infected blood, malarial antibodies change the color of the cotton. However, this reactive agent is highly unstable and will also change color for a variety of reasons unrelated to a malaria infection. The result is a test with a 60% incidence of false positives. Consequently, each false positive will result in medication being delivered to a patient with no need for treatment – effectively wasting that dosage. Additionally, treatment of uninfected individuals increases the likelihood of artemisinin-based combination treatment (ACT) resistance.
Lifelens hopes to directly address the major problem of reducing child mortality rates throughout the world by providing a robust mobile diagnostic solution for malaria patients. The premise of Lifelens project is to digitally characterize anemia, visualize blood cell rupture and parasites, and provide three-dimensional modeling of cells through single image acquisition of low-volume blood smears by peripheral finger pricks.
With such a straightforward process, Lifelens can be used by anyone who has the ability to operate basic cell phones. This opens up the possibilities of even shipping devices directly to afflicted areas as no special training or language skills are necessary for the operation of the device. In this way we seek to offer lower cost care to a much broader spectrum of the world’s population than what can currently be served by blood analysis labs or rapid diagnostic tests.
[i] UNICEF. Millennium Development Goal. http://www.unicef.org/mdg/childmortality.html.