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Smartphone Camera Can Illuminate Bacteria Causing Acne, Dental Plaque

By University of Washington News

June 17, 2021

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Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a technique to identify potentially harmful bacteria on skin and in the mouth using images taken by conventional smartphone cameras.

Their cost-effective approach — which could become the basis for home-based methods to assess basic skin and oral health — combines a smartphone-case modification with image-processing methods.

The researchers attached a three-dimensional printed ring featuring 10 LED black lights around the smartphone case's camera opening, which researcher Qinghua He said serve to "'excite' a class of bacteria-derived molecules called porphyrins, causing them to emit a red fluorescent signal that the smartphone camera can then pick up."

Researcher Ruikang Wang explained, "If you have bacteria producing a different byproduct that you want to detect, you can use the same image to look for it — something you can't do today with conventional imaging systems."

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