What if there was a way to get doctors in third world countries easy access to microscopes? This would allow doctors to diagnose and treat diseases like Malaria and Chagas Disease much more quickly; which, in turn could save thousands of lives every year. Well, the Foldscope, developed by Prakash Lab at Stanford University, may be the answer to this problem.
The Foldscope costs as little as $.50 to produce and as little as 10 minutes to assemble. Giving doctors access to over 2000x magnification this device seems poised to revolutionize care to third world countries. Specifications of the device have it weighing less than 8.8 grams and able to fit easily in a pocket. The Foldscope can reportedly run up to 50 hours on a single button cell battery and it also durable enough to withstand being stepped on or dropped from the top of a three-story building. This makes this microscope ideal for treatment in third world countries; where doctors are likely to be on the go and often, having to deal with less civilized terrain than we enjoy here in the States. According to Manu Prakash of Stanford University, the device was geared towards helping prevent deaths of children from malaria in third world countries. In his report he went on to say that malaria kills more than one million people every year and that there are over one billion people who still need to be tested. He also indicated that when there was measures put in place to help prevent and treat the disease early on, retraction was seen. (Read his exact words and more on the Foldscope at medgadget.com)
The device offers a wide array of features including: brightfield, darkfield, fluoroscopy, and lens array. Equally impressive as it’s list of features are the devices wide range of diseases and bacteria types it has been able to identify. The Foldscope has already produced magnified images of Giardia lamblia, Leishmania donovani, Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas parasite), Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, and many others.
The cheap cost of Foldscope, coupled with its durability and ease to assemble make this a readily available tool for scientists and doctors around the world. This device’s small cost mean that labs across the world, especially in third world countries, could have drawers full of these microscopes available and ready for use. It is still too early to know the full benefit Dr. Prakash’s innovation will provide the world with; but undoubtedly, he has helped healthcare in third worlds take a giant leap forward.