Published: 22-10-2008 00:00 | Updated: 26-11-2013 10:29

Novel tool for diagnosis of parasitic diseases

Swedish and Finnish scientists have created a novel tool to observe and identify parasites with virtual microscopy on the Internet. The web-based system to diagnose parasite caused diseases, such as amebiasis and malaria, is presented in the latest issue of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Identification of parasites by microscopy is the basis for both diagnostics and epidemiological assessment of parasite burden globally. Yet, quality assessment of diagnostic parasitology laboratories is difficult, as delivering identical educational specimens has been impossible.

In the study, a series of parasite specimens on ordinary glass slides were digitized using a recently developed microscope scanner technique. Up to 50,000 images captured at high magnification are digitally stitched together to form a representation of the entire glass slide. In addition, the researchers captured image stacks at different focal planes, and developed a web-based viewing system for three-dimensional navigation in the specimens. Viewing the samples on the Internet very much resembles the use of Google Maps and puts only modest requirements on the viewer's computer.

The parasitology team lead by Professor Emeritus Ewert Linder at Karolinska Institutet, and the medical bioinformatics team lead by Associated Professor Johan Lundin of Folkhälsan Research Center in Helsinki are now searching for funding of a network for web-based diagnostic parasitology in Latin America.

"We believe that this is a possible way of improving the diagnostic standard for parasite caused diseases in low income countries", says Ewert Linder.

The project is a collaboration between the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell biology at Karolinska Institutet, the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, the universities in Helsinki and Tampere, Finland and University of Léon, Nicaragua.


'Web-Based Virtual Microscopy for Parasitology: A Novel Tool for Education and Quality Assurance', Ewert Linder, Mikael Lundin, Cecilia Thors, Marianne Lebbad, Jadwiga Winiecka-Krusnell, Heikki Helin, Byron Leiva, Jorma Isola, Johan Lundin, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 21 October 2008.

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