Can Your iPhone Detect Ear Infections?
The new iPhone 5 may have a lot of features, but can it test for an ear infection? Thanks to a new iPhone attachment, it can. The device, developed by researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University, attaches the iPhone and can save parents who suspect that their child might have an ear infection a trip to the doctor's office.
Doctors typically diagnose an ear infection by looking into the affected ear with an otoscope, used to examine the ear drum. The new device, called the Remotoscope, would allow parents to take pictures or video of the child's ear and send it remotely to a doctor for analysis.
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"Ultimately we think parents could receive a diagnosis at home and forgo the late-night trips to the emergency room," Dr. Wilbur Lam, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, who is developing the device, said in a statement. "It's known that kids who get ear infections early in life are at risk for recurrent ear infections. It can be a very big deal and really affect their families' quality of life."
The attachment clips on to the iPhone and uses its camera and flash as the light source to see into the ear. Software on the phone provides magnification, records the image and sends it off to the doctor.
Ear infections are the most common diagnoses for preschoolers, affecting 75 percent of children by age 6. And since it is tough to tell if the infection is caused by a virus or bacteria, doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics, which can pose problems.
"As pediatricians will likely only see the child once, they often err on the side of giving antibiotics for viral infections rather than risk not giving antibiotics for a bacterial infection, which can lead to complications," Lam says. "So, we are currently over-treating ear infections with antibiotics and consequently causing antibiotic resistance."
The device is currently undergoing clinical trials, and if it passes, the researchers hope to market it commercially.
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