Malaria is a life-threatening parasitic disease and the leading cause for high morbidity rates in developing countries. In Nigeria, the chosen context of this study, over 90% of the population is at risk of malaria infection, leading to 60% of the outpatient visits in Nigerian healthcare facilities. Accurate diagnostics are not available for the mass and drugs can be bought without a prescription, leading to misdiagnosis, overtreatment and drug resistance. Microscopy and rapid diagnostic tests are the recommended methods for confirmation of a suspected case of malaria. However, both methods lack affordability, availability or accuracy. 

The story of Excelscope

The Excelscope is a smart malaria diagnostic device that leverages the functionalities of a smartphone to capture magnified images of a blood smear and provide a remote or automated diagnosis. The concept was developed by students from the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. The project is currently under development of a research consortium Industrial Design Engineering faculty, Delft Centre for Systems and Control (TU Delft), Leiden University Medical Centre. The Excelscope aims for increasing accessibility to accurate malaria diagnostics in remote settings.

Emphasis on user and context study

In the development of the Excelscope, the emphasis has been placed on the user and context as well as the technical functionalities. During the field research in Uganda and Nigeria, different levels of healthcare professionals were involved in our study to find barriers and enablers for the use and acceptance of the Excelscope. The findings were mapped out into the interactive roadmap of technology, context, and user. Based on the framework, the most effective scenario for future intervention was determined to develop the concept further. Accordingly, more study on the usability and user experience was conducted and the field research focused on the community pharmacists has taken place. 

Excelscope 2.0 - Technical optimisation

Along with the user and context study, optical technology and the mechanism were being under development of the Delft Centre for Systems and Control. In order to integrate the separate parts into the one complete system, the Excelscope went through several iterations. The two complete design and working prototypes were developed during the course at the Industrial design engineering - Advanced Embodiment Design. Recently, one of the teams has won the James Dyson Award for its innovative design. 

Smart Malaria Diagnostics TU Delft - AED Project Team Tazama

Smart Malaria Diagnostics TU Delft - AED project Team Zoom

Future steps

In the coming months, the embodiment design and the algorithm of the Excelscope will be optimised for the sample production. The feasibility assessment of medical aspects such as safety and sensitivity will be conducted before finalising the design. 

Contributors

Delft Centre for Systems and Control l Delft University of Technology

Department of Parasitology l Leiden University Medical Centre

Industrial Design Engineering l Delft University of Technology

Delft Global Initiative l Delft University of Technology

Public Health l University of Ibadan, Nigeria

College of Medicine l University of Lagos, Nigeria