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Using an iPhone as a Microscope

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report in Special English. Microscopes are not always available where they are needed. Now, for a few dollars and a little work, the iPhone can become a microscope.

The same is probably true of other smartphones as well. Dr. Isaac Bogoch is an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital in Canada. Dr. Bogoch was the lead investigator on a new study of the iPhone microscope. It appears in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He and his colleagues had heard of laboratory images made with smartphones.

For the new study, he says he used an iPhone 4s because he happened to own one. But, he says, any smartphone with a good camera and a zoom function should work just as well. Dr. Bogosh says he and his colleagues bought a ball lens online for about $8. They attached the special lens to the lens of the iPhone camera using double-sided tape.

Dr. Bogosh and his colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute tested the iPhone on Pemba Island in Tanzania. They looked for intestinal parasites in school age children. He says by putting the lens close to the slides, his team was able to see the parasites they were looking for pretty easily.

The results were better when the infections were more severe. But he thinks that will change when the technology improves. He says the smartphone microscope could greatly extend disease control in poor, rural areas. Medical workers would also be able to e-mail an image to an expert for help in identification.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 20Mar2013)

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