By Shardul Nautiyal
Automated digital microscopy is gradually picking up in India and it could well help address the dearth of pathologists in the country. As of today, there is one pathologist for a population of 65000 people and around 20,000 labs out of the one lakh labs in the country which do microscopy to cater to diagnostic needs of patients suffering from cancers, different types of infections and anaemias.
With artificial intelligence (AI) enabled automated digital microscopy, the sample review process by a pathologist which used to take 5 to 10 minutes has come down to 30 seconds today. “A pathologist can now review 300 slides per day through the AI-enabled web-based platform as compared to 30 slides per day. That is a value we are bringing through AI and Robotics which helps in the digitization of the samples,” said Tathagato Rai Dastidar, Founder and CEO at SigTuple.
Bengaluru-based SigTuple Technologies operates in the field of pathology and combines AI, robotics, and data science to offer two solutions — an automated digital microscope and an AI platform. Sigtuple started its full-scale development process 6 to 8 months back and today has 30 installations in cities like Bombay, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Jaipur, Pune, Bangalore and Kerala.
Tathagato further informed that the device is not only installed in urban settings but also in very remote areas. He gives the example of a tribal village in Tamil Nadu called Gudalur, near Ooty, where he says, “We have an installation which caters to 300 hamlets of tribal population. There is a 30-year-old hospital which never had a pathologist. Today, our device at such remote locations is serving the needs of the patients who otherwise had to go to Coimbatore or nearby town for testing and diagnosis.”
Further, he said, “Samples are being made at the centre itself and scanned at our device. There are doctors sitting in Bangalore who are looking at those samples through the web platform and are helping diagnose those patients.”
According to Dr Maheboob Basade, President Elect, Indian Society of Medical and Pediatric Oncology (ISMPO), “With the new digital interventions in the area of microscopy, automated digital microscopy is gradually picking up in India. Microscopy is an important and relevant space to look at as it is related to certain diseased conditions like blood cancers, parasitic infections like Malaria, Dengue and even severe anemias.”
Manual microscopy apparently suffers from some limitations. Pathologists need to be there to review the sample. A pathologist has many slides to review in a day. There can be errors made which can affect the diagnosis especially when there is a junior pathologist and is in need of guidance from a senior pathologist. This then is said to create a bottleneck in lab workflow.
“SigTuple is trying to automate the process. It has a hardware and software solution in the form of an automated digital microscope which can replace the traditional microscope. While the smart and automated digital microscope under the brand name AI100 converts a physical sample into digital images, the AI platform analyses these digital images to create a report for pathologists to review. This has made the pathologist’s job easier by helping eliminate manual errors and review digital samples remotely and offer consultation timely,” Tathagato Rai Dastidar explained. Also, he said, “There are limited numbers of players in this automated digital microscopy as of today like the Swedish based CellaVision and Israel based Scopio Labs. India has one lakh labs which are not equipped to do microscopy. This is the potential where we are looking at expanding in the future currently.”
Finally, he said, “there is a lot of scope to replace the manual microscopy with automated digital microscopy. There is an enormous need to install digital microscopy in all corners of the country to cater to the rural population.”