Researchers at the Umea University in Sweden and the University of Pretoria in South Africa have developed a method that simplifies the diagnosis of ear infections (otitis media), something which annually affects half a billion children worldwide.
The software-based method automatically analyses images from a digital otoscope and enables highly accurate diagnoses. "Because of lack of health personnel in many developing countries, ear infections are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. This may lead to hearing impairments, and even to life-threatening complications," said Claude Laurent, researcher at Umea University.

"Using this method, health personnel can diagnose middle ear infections with the same accuracy as general practitioners and paediatricians," Laurent said.
"Since the system is cloud-based, meaning that the images can be uploaded and automatically analysed, it provides rapid access to accurate and low-cost diagnoses in developing countries," he said.
The software system consists of a cloud-based analysis of images of the eardrum taken using an otoscope, which is an instrument normally used in the medical examination of ears.
Images of eardrums, taken with a digital otoscope connected to a smartphone, were compared to high-resolution images in an archive and automatically categorised according to predefined visual features associated with five diagnostic groups.