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New technology enables machines to detect microscopic pathogens in water
Date:4/2/2010

and his team have been working on the issue since 1996 when he first proposed that to fine-tune the search for pathogens, scientists needed to find a way to "substitute humans with automatic image analysis systems." By the year 2000, "we actually proved that it could be done," Pillai said, who then spent the next nine years seeking a commercial partner who could "move this technology into the marketplace."

Eventually, Pillai found Smart Imaging Technology in Houston. Together they sought additional funding from the state through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to bring the process into reality. Pillai said the company is in the "final stages" of bringing the detection system online.

"Basically, you put a slide under a microscope, and it will automatically scan the microscope and put potential flags on all potential objects of interest," Pillai explained. "Then the software that was developed as part of this project can hone down on every one of those potential objects and query it to see whether it is the right image based on a number of parameters that we have developed for it to detect."

The automated system was developed specifically to seek out cryptosporidium and giardia -- pathogens that are transmitted via water and cause severe diarrhea in people with compromised immune systems. They are spread globally through contaminated drinking water.

"But we can develop the same thing for other pathogens of interest - anything that is large enough to be detected with a microscope," Pillai said, pointing to Toxoplasma gondii, the pathogen that can pass from cats to pregnant women and cause fetal death. "Right now we have very few people in the country who can identify Toxoplasma gondii under a microscope."

Whether a private company or a university operates the automated microscopic detection of pathogens, the capability could also be offered via the Internet nationally as well as to other countries where money to purchase
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Contact: Kathleen Phillips
ka-phillips@tamu.edu
979-845-2872
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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