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Low-cost technologies for medical diagnostics in low-resource settings.

Expert Opin Med Diagn. 2013 May;7(3):243-55. doi: 10.1517/17530059.2013.767796. Balsam J, Ossandon M, Bruck HA, Lubensky I, Rasooly A. University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) , College Park, MD 20742 , USA.

Introduction: Medical diagnostics is a critical element of effective medical treatment. However, many modern and emerging diagnostic technologies are not affordable or compatible with the needs and conditions found in low- and middle-income countries. Resource-poor countries require low-cost, robust, easy-to-use, and portable diagnostic devices compatible with telemedicine that can be adapted to meet diverse medical needs.

Areas covered: The most suitable devices are likely those that will be based on optical technologies, which are used for many types of biological analyses. This manuscript describes several prototypes of low-cost optical technologies and their application developed at the FDA's Office of Science and Engineering laboratories including a webcam-based multiwavelength fluorescence plate reader, a webcam-based fluorescence microscope demonstrated for colonic mucosa tissue pathology analysis, a lens-free optical detector used for the detection of Botulinum A neurotoxin activity, and a lab-on-a-chip which enables the performance of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and other immunological or enzymatic assays without the need of dedicated laboratories and complex equipment demonstrated for the detection of the toxin staphylococcal enterotoxin B.

Expert opinion: Sensitive and effective optical detection devices can be developed using readily available consumer electronics components such as webcams, charge-coupled device cameras, and LEDs. There are challenges in developing devices with sufficient sensitivity and specificity. Several optical and computational approaches were developed to overcome these challenges to create optical detectors that can serve as low-cost medical diagnostics in resource-poor settings.

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