In Ghana (and other low- and middle-income countries) where the incidence of iron deficiency is high, it could make anemia screening more widely available to children, as the screening tool is much cheaper and more effective than existing options. in one sitting.

The paper builds on previous successful research by the same team that investigated the use of an app – neoSCB – to detect jaundice in newborns.

Anemia: Statistics

Anemia is a condition in which the concentration of hemoglobin in the blood decreases, which means that oxygen cannot be carried around the body efficiently. It affects two billion people globally and can have a significant impact on children’s developmental outcomes, increasing their vulnerability to infectious diseases and impairing cognitive development.


Globally, the most common cause of anemia is iron deficiency, but other conditions such as blood loss, malaria, and sickle cell disease also contribute.

First author PhD candidate Thomas Wemyss (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering) said: “Smartphones are popular globally, but studies using smartphone imaging to diagnose diseases show a general trend of encountering difficulty in communicating results to different groups.

“We are pleased to see these encouraging results in a group often underrepresented in smartphone diagnostics research.”

Smartphone cameras to diagnose anemia

Traditionally, diagnosing anemia requires drawing blood samples, which can be expensive for patients and healthcare systems. It can create disparities in the cost of going to the hospital for a blood test. Often, families have to make two trips, get a blood sample and then collect the results, as the samples are transported between the clinic and the laboratory for analysis.

In the 1980s, a hand-held device called the HemoCue was developed to provide faster results, but this involved significant initial and ongoing costs, as well as still requiring a fingerstick blood sample.

The researchers knew that hemoglobin has a very characteristic color due to the way it absorbs light, so they aimed to develop a procedure to take smartphone photos and use them to predict whether anemia is present.

They analyzed photographs taken from 43 children under the age of four who were recruited to participate in the study in 2018. The images covered three areas of the body where minimal skin pigmentation occurs (white of the eye, lower lip, and lower eyelid). ).

The team found that when these were evaluated together to predict blood hemoglobin concentration, they were able to successfully detect all cases of individuals with the most severe classification of anemia and detect milder anemia at clinically useful levels.

Chief investigator Dr. Terence Leung (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering) said: “Since 2018, we have been working with the University of Ghana on affordable ways to use smartphones to improve health care. Following our success in screening for neonatal jaundice, we are very excited. Smartphone imaging techniques can help detect anemia in young children and infants. to see if it can be applied to screening.”

The research was funded by the EPSRC through the UCL Global Challenges Research Fund and the UCL Doctoral Training Center for Intelligent, Integrated Imaging in Health.

Source: Eurekalert

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