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Detecting malaria early to save lives: New optical technique promises rapid and accurate diagnosis
Date:4/18/2012

c gold standard for malaria, Giemsa-stained blood smear, uses optical microscopy to identify different species of the malaria agent, Plasmodium, in blood samples. This technique requires skilled medical professionals trained to identify the telltale signs of the parasite throughout its life cycle and its population density in the bloodstream.

In an effort to find a more effective means of detection, Cojoc's team of biophysics researchers in Italy joined forces with malaria experts from Israel and Spain. Together they turned to speckle imaging, because of its ability to construct a statistically significant picture, as a new way to improve the diagnosis of malaria. It's called speckling because of light's wave-like ability to brighten as waves combine and fade as they cancel. The resulting patterns have a distinctive speckled pattern.

The specific technique the researchers used is called Secondary Speckle Sensing Microscopy. By applying this imaging technique to an automated high-throughput system, the researchers were able to deliver results in as little as 30 minutes. They did so with a high rate of accuracy and without the need for highly trained technicians and a well-equipped hospital laboratory. The current time to diagnosis in most African medical centers is typically between 8-10 hours.

Speckling to Paint a Clearer Picture

Secondary Speckle Sensing Microscopy begins with illuminating red blood cells with a tilted laser beam. This produces a time-varied speckle pattern field based on the cells' thermal vibration and the movement of their membranes -- traits that differ in healthy and diseased states. The speckle patterns are inspected under the microscope and recorded on a camera at a high frame rate. Using two automated analytical methods -- "fuzzy logic" and "principal component analysis" -- scientists scour a set of speckle parameters to extract statistical information about changes in red blood cells' membranes
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Contact: Angela Stark
astark@osa.org
202-416-1443
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert  

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