A French researcher says his new app and smartphone hardware could save lives by providing an easy and affordable way to detect Malaria - estimated to kill more than 600,000 people a year - using cameras on the devices. Joel Flynn reports.
These children are suffering from Malaria - one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. Nearly 600,000 people died from it in 2013, according to the World Health Organization. Most of them were children. But now a new weapon in the fight against Malaria could be about to take off. Jean Very-Babl is the CEO of IanXen. They've developed a new app he says could drastically improve diagnosis of Malaria. And they call it xRAPID. It uses the camera in a smartphone to find the disease's parasites. SOUNDBITE (English) IANXEN CEO, JEAN VERY-BABL, SAYING: "We start looking at each of the red blood cells individually through a facial recognition software we have taught the iPhone what to look for, and after a year of teaching we have reached maximum level, and at 98 percent now it can tell whether that cell is infected or not infected." Malaria is a lethal disease, but the biggest challenge has been diagnosing it. Treatment must be administered in the early stages of contracting the disease, but symptoms often mimic flu and other common viruses. Establishing whether or not a patient has Malaria can take time and relies on laboratory testing. Babl says the beauty of xRAPID is its ease of use. SOUNDBITE (English) IANXEN CEO, JEAN VERY-BABL, SAYING: "There's only one button, which is called "Diagnose". So you put it on the slate and you put it on the dried blood, and you press diagnose and it tells you yes or no." Babl says plans to roll out the app are currently underway - a commercial launch is planned for March. IanXen are already working on adapting the app to diagnose TB and Lime Disease as well. The world might have its eyes on the battle against Ebola. But, if xRAPID works the way Babl hopes, the war against Malaria might just have taken a step forward.