DOLF Scientists Test New Scanner for Measuring Leg Swelling due to Filariasis

DOLF Scientists Test New Scanner for Measuring Leg Swelling due to Filariasis

In March of 2017, DOLF researchers, Ramakrishna Rao and Philip Budge traveled to Galle, Sri Lanka to test a new portable scanner with the potential to revolutionize the measurement of limbs affected by lymphatic filariasis (LF).  The scanner, which is produced by the Atlanta-based startup, LymphaTech, uses infrared scanning technology similar to that found in Microsoft’s X-Box Kinect, to create highly accurate virtual 3D reconstructions of solid objects.  After meeting the scanner’s creators at national meeting in the fall, Doctors Budge and Rao wanted to see if this simple, portable scanner, which consists of an infrared sensor mounted on an iPad, could provide precise and accurate limb measurements for patients afflicted by LF.  So, they worked with Dr. Channa Yahathugoda, who directs a filariasis clinic in Galle, Sri Lanka, to design a study comparing the scanner to the gold-standards for measuring LF-affected limbs: tape measurements and water displacement.

What they found was highly encouraging.  Working together with a team of local physicians in Dr. Yahathugoda’s clinic, they found that the LymphaTech scanner could provide measurements of leg volume and multiple circumferences that were as precise as those obtained by tape measure or water displacement, but in only a fraction of the time, and with much less inconvenience to the patients. This can be a huge step forward for those who study and treat patients with lymphedema, the type of leg swelling caused by LF, because many of these patients have such severe disease that they have difficulty placing their limbs in a water tank to measure water displacement.  In addition, affected legs often have open wound that make it more difficult to take tape measurements.  Many patients often have great difficulty traveling from their homes to the clinic to have their measurements taken.  This new tool should make it possible to take extremely accurate limb measurements in the patients’ homes or villages without cumbersome equipment.  The ability to rapidly get these measurements will make it much easier to monitor patients with lymphedema, particularly in clinical trials of therapies for lymphedema, which are sorely needed.  In fact, after sharing the data from their study with international collaborators, the scanner has been added as a measurement tool in an upcoming multi-site, international research study designed to determine whether the antibiotic, doxycycline, can reduce the severity lymphedema in patients with filariasis.

The Sri Lanka scanner study will soon be published in the American Journal Tropical Medicine and Hygeine.

Read the complete article in Washington University in St. Louis – The Record

A collaborator using the LymphaTech scanner to scan the legs of a patient in Galle, Sri Lanka










One example of the 3D model created by the LymphaTech scanner













Faculty Achievement Award 2016

GWeil Faculty Achievement 2016

Gary J. Weil, MD

Gary J. Weil, MD, professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine, is known for his international contributions to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tropical diseases.

He has devoted his career to the diagnosis and eradication of tropical parasitic diseases. His efforts have impacted multiple countries and have led to new and highly effective diagnostic tests and treatments. Passionate about promoting global health awareness, Dr. Weil has educated scores of students about the interconnectedness of global health concerns and has supported and created dynamic global health educational programs. The Washington University Medical Center Alumni Association is proud to present Dr. Weil with its Faculty Achievement Award.

Weil focuses his research on two common parasitic diseases that infect millions of people — onchocerciasis, also known as river blindness, and paragonimiasis, or lung fluke disease. For more than 30 years, he has crisscrossed the globe, traveling 75,000 miles annually in some years, in his efforts to eliminate the transmission of these diseases. His research lab has developed new diagnostic tests that have been highly effective and are now being explored by the World Health Organization for use in mapping and monitoring the impact of mass drug administration to prevent disease transmission. Weil also is investigating the optimal frequency for treatment in order to more effectively wipe out disease transmission.

His work, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and involving researchers around the world, includes applied field research in eight countries. In the United States, Weil’s research has identified paragonimiasis in crayfish living in Missouri waterways, work that has resulted in disease prevention and transmission guidelines for the Missouri Department of Health.

Weil served for 20 years as a member of the International Centers for Tropical Disease Research Network of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He has been a faculty scholar for Washington University’s Institute of Public Health since 2008. He serves as a faculty advisor for Washington University’s Forum for International Health and Tropical Medicine (FIHTM), a student-led group founded in 1999 that is supported partially by alumni contributions. Through FIHTM, medical students are able to travel abroad for international health rotations. Characteristic of his leadership role in academic medicine, Weil continues clinical activities as a member of the infectious diseases service and is a popular educator for students, fellows and house staff.

His colleagues note that Weil’s scholarly work truly exemplifies the power of translational research, and that Weil serves as a superb role model as he strives to eliminate parasitic diseases worldwide. The Washington University Medical Alumni Association is honored to present Dr. Weil with its Faculty Achievement Award.