Soil-transmitted helminths (STH) are the most prevalent pathogens among the group of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Kato-Katz technique is the diagnosis method recommended by WHO and although is generally more sensitive than other microscopic methods in high transmission settings, it often presents a decreased sensitivity in low transmission settings and it is labour intensive. Digitizing the samples could provide a solution which allows to store the samples in a digital database and perform remote analysis. Artificial intelligence methods based on digitized samples can support diagnostics efforts by support diagnostics efforts by performing an automatic and objective quantification of disease infection.
In this work, we propose an end-to-end pipeline for microscopy image digitization and automatic analysis of digitized images of soil-transmitted helminths. Our solution includes (1) a digitalization system based on a mobile app that digitizes the microscope samples using a low-cost 3D-printed microscope adapter, (2) a telemedicine platform for remote analysis and labelling and (3) novel deep learning algorithms for automatic assessment and quantification of parasitological infection of STH.
This work has been evaluated by comparing the STH quantification using both a manual remote analysis based on the digitized images and the AI-assisted quantification against the reference method based on conventional microscopy. The deep learning algorithm has been trained and tested on 41 slides of stool samples containing 949 eggs from 6 different subjects using a cross-validation strategy obtaining a mean precision of 98,44% and mean recall of 80,94%. The results also proved the potential of generalization capability of the method at identifying different types of helminth eggs.
In conclusion, this work has presented a comprehensive pipeline using smartphone-based microscopy integrated with a telemedicine platform for automatic image analysis and quantification of STH infection using artificial intelligence models.
Competing Interest Statement
ED, DBP, LL, EA, DC, AMa, AMo, MP, AS, ES, AV and MLO work for Spotlab. The rest of the authors declare no competing interests.