Finding parasites on the web – features of the platform
Whereas the number of clinical cases per proficiency test was previously limited to two due to the considerable effort involved, virtual proficiency tests mean it is now possible to offer three or more cases, each consisting of one or two samples – such as blood samples containing malaria pathogens. Participants are required to identify and classify the parasites and can seamlessly zoom into and interactively focus on the digital sample in order to examine it in the same level of detail as they could under a microscope. Another key feature of the digital samples is that they are scalable and can be used by any number of people. Moreover, the platform includes direct, automatic evaluation of results as well as an extended feedback function that allows participants to compare their results with those of the experts from the Bernhard Nocht Institute.
The proficiency test offers a high level of convenience for users, as the platform can be accessed via a standard web browser and is even suitable for use on mobile devices. Thanks to operation in English and German, it can also be used internationally. In principle, ParasiteWeb® is subject to a fee, but a demo version allows users to test and familiarize themselves with the application first. Help is also on hand in the form of a short explanatory video that is available on the platform.
“We score points for our expertise in medical image processing”
The project is funded by the Leibniz Association and brings together three strong partners: BNITM is responsible for selecting and providing samples, as well as for annotation – that is, for tagging and classifying parasites. Fraunhofer IIS then takes over and digitizes the samples using high-resolution scans to produce a whole-slide image (WSI) that allows seamless zooming and focusing. Here, the group led by Michaela Benz can leverage its special expertise in the field of medical image processing. “So far, we’ve digitized a total of over 300 samples of a wide range of parasite species,” says Benz. “When these have been exhausted, we’ll offer new ones.” Initially, the team at Fraunhofer IIS was also responsible for programming the online platform. “We’ve outsourced this work over time – and, with Nobit OHG, we’ve found a strong partner that interfaces with customers and handles further development and support. The project therefore serves as a good example of outstanding application-oriented and integrated development work.”