Indian scientists develop cheap tongue test to diagnose diseases

08 December 2014

In internationally-credited research scientists in India have developed a new tongue-test system to help diagnose diseases in remote parts of the country.

Karthik Ramamurthy of the Department of Information Technology, Rajalakshmi Engineering College in Chennai, and his colleagues have trained a neural network that can take soft inputs such as standard questions about symptoms and a digitised image of the patient's tongue to offer a likely diagnosis so that professional healthcare might be sought accordingly by people in remote areas who do not have ready access to a qualified physician.

The digitised images of the patient's tongue reveal discolouration, engorgement, texture and other factors that might be linked to illness.

Smoothness and "beefiness" might reveal vitamin B12, iron, or folate deficiency, and anaemia. Black discolouration could be indicative of fungal overgrowth in HIV patients or prolonged antibiotic use.

Longitudinal furrows on the tongue are associated with syphilis. Ulcers might indicate the presence of Crohn's disease or colitis and various other conditions, the researchers said.

The team's automated diagnostic sees the condition of the tongue in combination with other symptoms to identify whether a patient has common cold, flu, bronchitis, streptococcal throat infection, sinusitis, allergies, asthma, pulmonary edema, food poisoning or diverticulitis.

The current system allows diagnosis of 14 distinct conditions. The team added that they will be able to add eye images and use those as an additional hard input for their neural network and so extend its repertoire significantly.

The research is published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.

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