The Em microscope concept evolved from a challenging set of design criteria: to create a robust, portable, affordable microscope capable of diagnosing tropical diseases at the health periphery. The resulting product, the Em1, is not only an instrument capable of convincingly achieving those original objectives, but it is also well suited to a range of other applications from healthcare to field science, general microscopy, micro-photography, veterinary pathology and academic study.
Despite the emergence of other field microscope designs over the last half century, no other instrument has fully satisfied these stringent requirements – the provision of a portable microscope with fully integrated lighting, XY indexing and high quality optics capable of diagnosing the blood-borne protists including malaria. The World Health Organisation recently reaffirmed its conviction that microscopy remains the ‘gold standard’ for the diagnosis of malaria despite the availability of RDTs (Rapid Diagnosis Tests). Unlike RDTs the microscope, in capable hands, is able to diagnose a wide range of tropical diseases at far less cost per patient and may also make a significant contribution towards the mapping of disease prevalence to better guide vaccine and drug delivery programmes.
The Em1's development programme included laboratory equivalence testing, culminating in practical field trials in tropical locations for the diagnosis of malaria and the NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases). A combination of innovative design, simplification and the application of modern manufacturing processes and robust lightweight materials have made the Em1 a reality.
The designers collaborated extensively with senior academics, field researchers, and scientists in the field of tropical medicine to ensure that the Em1 is perfectly suited to the needs of healthcare professionals, especially those operating in ‘first point of call’ health facilities in the remote tropics. We are greatly indebted for the help and guidance given by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH) during the lengthy development of the microscope.
Early prototypes of the Em1 microscope were shown at a workshop at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015 and identified as a key diagnostic tool at Malaria and Cholera workshops at the WHO in May 2018.