When there are no other options people tend to make do with what they have, which is probably what led to scientists working in rural Tanzania to co-opt an iPhone 4S into a jerry-rigged microscope which was then used to identify intestinal worm infections.
The home-made setup consisted of Apple’s handset, a cheap 3mm ball lens which was attached to the iPhone’s camera lens and a small torch. Double-sided tape was used to secure cellophane-wrapped slides containing stool samples to the crude microscope and the slides were viewed on the iPhone’s display. The zoom function was used to magnify the image of the slide and this method was able to view worm eggs of 40 to 60 micrometers in size. This resulted in a claimed 70% accuracy when assessing slides, rising to 90% when increased infection was present.
The lashed-up microscope wasn’t the only tool used for this experiment however, the iPhone’s accuracy was determined by viewing the slides in a conventional microscope. Dr Isaac Bogoch, one of the researchers involved in the experiment, had heard about smartphone microscopes being trialled in labs and decided to test it out in the real world.
Bogoch said “Ultimately we’d like something like this to be a useful diagnostic test. We want to put it in the hands of someone who might be able to use it. 70% isn’t really good enough, we want to be above 80% and we’re not quite there yet.”