Mathematical algorithm for the automatic recognition of intestinal parasites

Alicia Alva, Carla Cangalaya, Miguel Quiliano, Casey Krebs, Robert H Gilman, Patricia Sheen, Mirko Zimic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Parasitic infections are generally diagnosed by professionals trained to recognize the morphological characteristics of the eggs in microscopic images of fecal smears. However, this laboratory diagnosis requires medical specialists which are lacking in many of the areas where these infections are most prevalent. In response to this public health issue, we developed a software based on pattern recognition analysis from microscopi digital images of fecal smears, capable of automatically recognizing and diagnosing common human intestinal parasites. To this end, we selected 229, 124, 217, and 229 objects from microscopic images of fecal smears positive for Taenia sp., Trichuris trichiura, Diphyllobothrium latum, and Fasciola hepatica, respectively. Representative photographs were selected by a parasitologist. We then implemented our algorithm in the open source program SCILAB. The algorithm processes the image by first converting to gray-scale, then applies a fourteen step filtering process, and produces a skeletonized and tri-colored image. The features extracted fall into two general categories: geometric characteristics and brightness descriptions. Individual characteristics were quantified and evaluated with a logistic regression to model their ability to correctly identify each parasite separately. Subsequently, all algorithms were evaluated for false positive cross reactivity with the other parasites studied, excepting Taenia sp. which shares very few morphological characteristics with the others. The principal result showed that our algorithm reached sensitivities between 99.10%-100% and specificities between 98.13%- 98.38% to detect each parasite separately. We did not find any cross-positivity in the algorithms for the three parasites evaluated. In conclusion, the results demonstrated the capacity of our computer algorithm to automatically recognize and diagnose Taenia sp., Trichuris trichiura, Diphyllobothrium latum, and Fasciola hepatica with a high sensitivity and specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0175646
JournalPLoS One
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2017

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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