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Web-Based Virtual Microscopy of Digitized Blood Slides for Malaria Diagnosis: An Effective Tool for Skills Assessment in Different Countries and Environments

Ahmed, LJ and Seal, LH and Ainley, C and De la Salle, B and Brereton, M and Hyde, K and Burthem, J and Gilmore, WS (2016) Web-Based Virtual Microscopy of Digitized Blood Slides for Malaria Diagnosis: An Effective Tool for Skills Assessment in Different Countries and Environments. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18 (8). e213-e213. ISSN 1439-4456

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Abstract

Background: Morphological examination of blood films remains the reference standard for malaria diagnosis. Supporting the skills required to make an accurate morphological diagnosis is therefore essential. However, providing support across different countries and environments is a substantial challenge. Objective: This paper reports a scheme supplying digital slides of malaria-infected blood within an Internet-based virtual microscope environment to users with different access to training and computing facilities. The feasibility of the approach was established, allowing users to test, record, and compare their own performance with that of other users. Methods: From Giemsa stained thick and thin blood films, 56 large high-resolution digital slides were prepared, using high-quality image capture and 63x oil-immersion objective lens. The individual images were combined using the photomerge function of Adobe Photoshop and then adjusted to ensure resolution and reproduction of essential diagnostic features. Web delivery employed the Digital Slidebox platform allowing digital microscope viewing facilities and image annotation with data gathering from participants. Results: Engagement was high with images viewed by 38 participants in five countries in a range of environments and a mean completion rate of 42/56 cases. The rate of parasite detection was 78% and accuracy of species identification was 53%, which was comparable with results of similar studies using glass slides. Data collection allowed users to compare performance with other users over time or for each individual case. Conclusions: Overall, these results demonstrate that users worldwide can effectively engage with the system in a range of environments, with the potential to enhance personal performance through education, external quality assessment, and personal professional development, especially in regions where educational resources are difficult to access.

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