UCLA Researchers Use Crowd-Sourced Gaming to Diagnose Malaria

Researchers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA worked together to create an online gaming system that uses players to help diagnose malaria. In the game, players distinguish malaria-infected red blood cells from healthy red blood cells by viewing digital images obtained from microscopes. Researchers found that those players who would be considered "non-experts” (mostly consisting of undergraduate student volunteers) were able to diagnosis malaria-infected red blood cells with an accuracy that was within 1.25 percent of the diagnostic decisions made by a trained medical professional.

The game, which was designed to for use on cell phones and the PC, can be played by anyone anywhere in the world.

"The idea is, if you carefully combine the decisions of people — even non-experts — they become very competitive," said Aydogan Ozcan, an associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering and the corresponding author of the crowd-sourcing research. "Also, if you just look at one person's response, it may be OK, but that one person will inevitably make some mistakes. But if you combine 10 to 20, maybe 50 non-expert gamers together, you improve your accuracy greatly in terms of analysis."

UCLA researchers say that Crowd-sourcing has the potential to overcome limitations in the diagnosis of malaria, which affects an estimated 210 million people worldwide annually. Malaria accounts for 20 percent of all childhood deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and is the cause of 40 percent of hospitalizations throughout Africa.

Currently the best method for malaria diagnosis involves a trained pathologist using a conventional light microscope to view images of cells and count the number of malaria-causing parasites. Because the process is time consuming and because there are so many cases of it, crowd-sourcing can help speed up the process – in turn saving lives. Crowd-sourcing can also help health professionals avoid false positives, which lead to unnecessary treatments and hospitalizations.

You can learn more about what UCLA researchers are doing with crowd-sourcing and gaming here. The new UCLA study, "Distributed Medical Image Analysis and Diagnosis Through Crowd-Sourced Games,” will be published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Source: Medical Xpress

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