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Uganda’s First AI Software Lab Uses a Mobile App to Detect Malaria

TechInAfrica – The first Uganda’s Artificial Intelligence lab at Makerere Univesity has found a way to diagnose blood samples using a mobile app technology. The app has a program that is able to create criteria based on the previous images presented to it. It’s also able to identify the common forms of the infections.

Each day, lab technicians will process less than 25 slides per day. But if the technicians are less qualified, the process would take four times as many. According to doctor Alfred Andama, they have many patients who need malaria and tuberculosis tests while only one technician is looking at all the slides. Not only does it affect their eyes, but also compromise their ability to make a report properly based what they have seen.

Uganda’s First AI Software Lab Finds a Way to Detect Malaria Using a Mobile App
Uganda’s First AI Software Lab Uses a Mobile App to Detect Malaria via cnn.com

A Ph. D researcher and the Lead Scientist of the mobile app technology, Rose Nakasi said: “Almost everyone in Uganda, including me, has had malaria. It affects me as a person, and it affects Uganda. So I feel attached and want to contribute in any way that I can to its proper diagnosis.”

Around 27% of deaths found in 2016 in Uganda were caused by malaria and was stated by Uganda’s Ministry of Health as the major cause of deaths in the country. In rural areas, mortality rates are high while at the same time lack of doctors and nurses. Usually, nursing assistants are told to read slides, but lack of training can cause misdiagnosis.

The mobile app technology can count and map pathogens quickly, making it ready for a health worker to confirm it. It can cutoff diagnosis time, from 30 minutes to only two minutes. It is built with full learning algorithms to learn common features of Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria and tuberculosis.

The mobile app technology is on small-scale trials in some of Kampala’s hospitals and will later to distribute to hospitals in Uganda’s remote areas.

However, there will be a big challenge ahead of the technology, especially to convince patients how the technology can really help.

“People know a phone for calling and sending messages, they don’t know that a phone could do your diagnosis,” Daniel Mutembesa, another researcher at the Makerere AI lab explained. He added that patients are able to have themselves checked by a technician.

Mutembesa hoped that the mobile app technology can be adopted and trusted by a wide range of people very soon. It’s a technology-based solution to health issues in Uganda and hopefully, many people will find it useful in the near future.

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