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Gaming Malaria

May 15, 2012

Malaria is a huge killer globally. It is estimated that 1 million people per year are killed by it. It’s a complex problem too; curing it has proven hard but given it is prevalence in parts of the world beset by poverty it has added dimensions of complexity.

Now the idea to gamify the problem is being explored – to crowd-source diagnosis:

A new application that uses crowdsourcing to diagnose malaria is the latest in a continuing trend of bioinformatics being put into the hands of the masses via online gaming.

A team led by Aydogan Ozcan, an associate professor at UCLA, describes its diagnostic game, called BioGames, in a paper “Distributed Medical Image Analysis and Diagnosis Through Crowd-Sourced Games,” which has been accepted for publication in PLoS One.

In the game, players distinguish malaria-infected red blood cells from healthy ones by viewing images obtained from microscopes.

Before the game begins, each player is given a brief online tutorial about what malaria-infected red blood cells look like. After completing training, players are presented with multiple frames of red blood cell images and can use a “syringe” tool to “kill” the infected cells one-by-one and use a “collect-all” tool to designate the remaining cells in the frame as “healthy.”

(Hat-tip to Daniel for the link)

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