ioLight Pocket Microscope Fights Drug Resistance in Farm Animals

Mathematicians at Cambridge University have used images from an ioLight field microscope to spot intestinal parasites, reducing drug overuse and increasing farm profitability.


Equine strongyle eggs microscope ioLight

Fig 1. Image of equine parasitic worm eggs taken with the ioLight pocket microscope


Intestinal parasites are a growing problem in many animals including horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens. These parasites cause illness and even death in infected animals and reduce the farmer’s productivity. Up until now the parasite worms were controlled by indiscriminate use of anti-parasitic drugs, treating all animals whether they were infected or not. Unfortunately, this has led to drug-resistant strains of parasite worms developing, which farmers and horse owners have no way of controlling. An infestation of one of these drug-resistant intestinal worms would have devastating consequences for farmers and horse owners.

The solution to this problem is to restrict the use of the anti-parasitic drugs so that only animals infected with harmful parasite worms are treated. In this way, only the harmful parasites are killed and other strains are allowed to live.

To treat only infected animals, farmers and horse owners need to perform a worm egg count. This test involves examining each animal’s faeces to see if the eggs of harmful parasitic worms are present in dangerous quantities. Today, this is done by sending samples off to a lab, where the sample is manually analysed using a lab microscope and the number of parasite eggs counted. ioLight has developed a pocket microscope which enables farmers and vets to do this in the field. This reduces the time taken to do the analysis so that the animals can be treated more rapidly and smaller doses of anti-parasitic drugs used.

Despite the ioLight field microscope making worm egg counts easier and more efficient, the vet or farmer still has to count the eggs manually by looking at the microscope images. This takes time, and is difficult unless you are an expert.

Margaret Duff of Cambridge University has produced proof-of-concept image analysis software using MATLAB to analyse the microscope images automatically and count parasite eggs. Margaret showed that using a combination of algorithms and machine learning, she was able to detect eggs correctly with approximately 85% success rate. This shows great potential to help vets and farmers increase productivity and win the fight against drug-resistant parasites.

Margaret’s work is a collaboration between The Cantab Capital Institute for the Mathematics of Information and The Centre for Mathematical Imaging in Healthcare (both at Cambridge University),  The Mathworks LTD and Cancer Research UK. ioLight would like to thank Carola-Bibiane Schonlieb and Joana Grah of Cambridge University, Jasmina Lazic (Bayes Centre, University of Edinburgh), Sylvain Sauvage (Mathworks) and Stefanie Reichelt (Cancer Research UK) for their support and supervision, without which this work would not have been possible.

The details of Margaret’s work can be read on her GitHub repository.

Fig 2. New Forest Equine Vets using an ioLight field microscope in a stable for worm egg counts

ioLight’s crowdfunding campaign gets of to a good start


ioLight launched  a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube yesterday for their high resolution handheld USB digital microscope, and already the total has reached 12% (£32,210) of the total (£250k). A really big thank you to all those who have invested.

If you would like to buy your own share of ioLight, please invest!

Investments carry risks, see Risk Warning

Pocket microscope images malaria in red blood cells

Malaria remains a major problem across large areas of the world.  Yen Chin, Viola Introini and Prof Pietro Cicuta working on Biological and Soft Systems at the Cavendish Lab, Cambridge University are studying the mechanical properties of red blood cells by using optical tweezers to manipulate cells. One of the uses of this work is to study cells infected with malaria and investigate how the infection is passed from one red blood cell to another.

Whilst in Prof Cicuta’s lab, he suggested that we give the ioLight pocket microscope a really difficult  test and see if it can image a slides of malaria infected red blood cells that had just been produced for his research and was being used with conventional microscopes in his lab on the day ioLight visited.

For this test we used the standard ioLight microscope and its built-in illuminator below the sample. To increase the contrast in the image we raised the sample approx. 5mm. The whole test was done on a corner of a computer desk next to the keyboard – ie in the small space in which you normal use the mouse! – the iPad was either handheld, or rested in on the computer keyboard, so no bench space was required.

Red blood cells - pocket microscope ioLight

Red blood cells showing normal cells, and those with black areas which is evidence of maleria infection

Within just a couple of minutes the microscope produced the image above, which clearly shows the red blood cells, and differentiates normal red blood cells from those with an internal black area, which indicates that the cell has been infected with malaria.

This is a great demonstration of the 1µm resolution of the ioLight microscope and shows how good images can be obtained directly to a tablet or phone without the need for bench space!

Living ‘Ark’ of seeds


Deptford Pink is a rather pretty pink flower ( which is extremely rare and facing a very real risk of extinction in the wild over the next century. Conservation efforts have been recently focussing on collecting seeds from sites where the plants still occur, in the hope of creating a living ‘Ark’ of seeds at the Millennium Seedbank at Kew, from which we can re-introduce sites in the future

The seed is a rather interesting shape, and under the ioLight portable microscope you can see that the surface is covered in a curious array of raised bumps, almost like the bark on a tree!

Thanks to Dominic Price of the Species Recovery Trust for the seed and information on Deptford Pink (

Magnificent Mobile Microscope Live in Cambridge This Saturday

Charley sage leaf c 13-3-16

At last! A chance for you to come and try out the Magnificent Mobile Microscope yourself in Cambridge.

Please join us at the Anglia Ruskin University on Saturday afternoon a try the microscope for yourself. You can also talk to the team and hear the story of how we developed the microscope and when they will be on sale.

Remember to bring a sample, a small jar of pond water, a dead bug or just your hair!

See you on Saturday, full details at e-Luminate Festival