A smartphone has been used to automatically detect wriggling parasites in blood samples, BBC reports.

The CellScope system films a drop of blood and an app then automatically analyses any movement in the sample to detect the parasites.

According to results obtained from trials in Cameroon, which were published in Science Translational Medicine, the device was successful in making detections and experts lauded it saying it marked a fundamental advance in tropical diseases.

Previous efforts to eradicate 2 parasitic diseases, river blindness and elephantiasis, have been suspended because the treatment can become fatal in some people.

One treatment, the drug ivermectin, is risky in people with high levels of Loa loaworm, so people need to be screened first.

But testing is time-consuming and requires laboratory equipment.

However this new process solves this problem as shown by a team at the University of California, Berkeley, and the US National Institutes of Health, which used a modified smartphone to automate the process.

A pindrop of blood was collected and loaded into a handheld box. The phone on top then kicked in.

One of the researchers, Prof Daniel Fletcher explained that “with one touch of the screen, the device moves the sample, captures video and automatically analyses the images”.

The new process means very little training is required, while current screening procedures require someone to be skilled in analysing blood samples by eye.

It also means that diseases such as as TB, malaria can be much more conveniently be detected, even as there are now plans to test it on 40,000 people.