How a smartphone can detect a deadly disease, without a lab, for free

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Anemia affects up to ⅓ of the world’s population, but tests are expensive and require complicated devices. Now, an app is able to screen for anemia without even drawing blood.

It’s the brainchild of Rob Mannino, a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology who has anemia himself. He wanted to fight the disease, so he teamed up with Wilbur Lam, an associate professor at Emory.

Recognizing the number of people who were suffering from the disease in areas without sufficient medical care, he found a way to update an old test for anemia into the modern age. By taking pictures of the fingernails of patients, the pallor of their unpigmented skin can be analyzed to determine whether they have anemia with an accuracy within 10% of far more expensive tests.

Since many developing countries lack medical care but have cell phones, it could be a game changer in getting care to people who need it around the world.

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