Researchers from University College London and the University of Ghana were able to successfully predict if children have anemia using just a set of images captured by a smartphone.
This finding came as the result of a study recently published in PLOS ONE, in which the team experimented with a novel non-invasive diagnostic approach using smartphone pictures of the face and eye.
This technique may make screening for anemia much more accessible for children in low and middle-income countries– such as Ghana– where iron deficiency causes high rates of anemia.
This would be possible since the screening tool is significantly cheaper than existing diagnostic options, and it also allows results to be delivered in the same sitting.
According to the Mayo Clinic, anemia is a condition that causes a lack of healthy red blood cells. Also referred to as “low hemoglobin,” anemia results in a reduced concentration of hemoglobin levels in the blood– meaning that oxygen is not efficiently transported throughout the body.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 2 billion people worldwide are anemic. And the condition can have drastic impacts on child development by impairing cognitive development and increasing infectious disease susceptibility.
Around the world, the most common cause is iron deficiency. However, other conditions can also contribute to the development of anemia– including malaria, sickle-cell disease, and blood loss.
Diagnosing anemia traditionally required blood samples to be drawn– which is expensive for both patients and healthcare providers.
Traveling to the hospital can also create cost-related inequalities– since families are often required to make two trips.