Fletcher Lab’s Mobile Phone-based Microscope for Neglected Tropical Diseases Receives Gates Foundation Support

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $1.9 million grant to Berkeley to support the scaled-up production of the LoaScope, a mobile phone-based microscope developed by Blum Center Chief Technologist Daniel Fletcher and researchers in his bioengineering laboratory, to enable mapping of Loa loa prevalence and intensity in Central and West Africa. The LoaScope uses video from the mobile phone-based microscope to automatically detect and quantify infection by parasitic worms in a drop of blood. 

Loa loa, commonly referred to as African eye worm, is passed on to humans through the repeated bites of deer flies in West and Central Africa rainforests. Knowing whether someone has a Loa loa infection and the intensity of that infection is critical for mass drug administration efforts to eliminate onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis). There may be more than 29 million people who are at risk of getting loaisis in affected areas of Central and West Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Fletcher Lab’s original device was developed with support from the Blum Center, USAID, KLA-Tencor, and the Gates Foundation to enable safe treatment of River Blindness with the potent anti-helminth drug ivermectin in regions co-endemic with Loa loa. The new project will update 30-year-old maps of Loa loa infections in partnership with the Task Force for Global Health. Fletcher, who is UC Berkeley’s Purnendu Chatterjee Chair in Engineering Biological Systems, said the mapping is necessary to identify regions where mass drug administration for River Blindness can be carried out safely and where precautions due to Loa loa co-infection may be necessary. 

The LoaScope uses video from the mobile phone-based microscope to automatically detect and quantify infection by parasitic worms in a drop of blood. 

Among the LoaScope’s proof of impact is a November 2017 New England Journal of Medicine paper co-authored by Professor Fletcher and an international team of researchers describing how the device was used to successfully treat more than 15,000 patients with ivermectin without the severe adverse events that had previously halted treatment. 

“This is not just a step forward for efforts to eliminate river blindness,” Professor Fletcher told Berkeley News in a November 2017 article, “but a demonstration that mobile microscopy — based on a mobile phone — can safely and effectively expand access to healthcare. This work sets the stage for expanding the use of mobile microscopy to improve diagnosis and treatment of other diseases, both in low-resource areas and eventually back in the U.S.”

More Articles

News

Message to Friends of the Blum Center

S. Shankar Sastry has announced that he will step down as faculty director of the Blum Center at the end of the academic year. In his message, he expresses his thanks and reflects on the many successes of his tenure as director from 2007 to the current academic year.

Read More »
Courtesy of Ilana Lipsett
Big Ideas

Meet Ilana Lipsett: Big Ideas Mentor and Judge and a Champion for the Future

As a senior program manager at Institute for the Future, a non-profit encouraging individuals and organizations to plan for the long-term, Lipsett looks at the world-to-come through a collaborative lens. But her dedication to innovative futures transcends her office. As a judge and mentor of the Big Ideas Contest, housed at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, Lipsett has become a key piece of the program and an exemplar for students who too hope to redesign how we approach forthcoming generations.     

Read More »

Host and Fellow Responsibilities

Host Organizations

  • Identify staff supervisor to manage I&E Climate Action Fellow
  • Submit fellowship description and tasks
  • Engage in the matching process
  • Mentor and advise students
  • Communicate with Berkeley program director and give feedback on the program.

Berkeley Program Director​

  • Communicate with host organizations, students, and other university departments to ensure smooth program operations

Student Fellows

  • Complete application and cohort activities
  • Communicate with staff and host organizations
  • Successfully complete assignments from host organization during summer practicum
  • Summarize and report summer experience activities post-fellowship