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Providing Pathology Solutions to Deprived Areas Around the World

Most students and clinicians learn microbiology with the proper equipment: microscopes. However, in deprived countries front-line health facilities have to refer patients elsewhere because they do not have a microscope to enable diagnosis. Research is inhibited because of lack of equipment, students never get the opportunity to use real microscopes during their studies, and participation in science and particularly microbiology is very low.

On the bright side, there are untapped resources that can help these students. In labs around the world there are huge numbers of retired microscopes hidden away or in storage. They are in perfect working condition but are not being used, having been replaced with newer equipment. X-WOW is working to get these ‘retired microscopes’ back to school in deprived countries where they are desperately needed.

X-WOW are re-distributing ‘retired microscopes’ to applicants who can justify the need for a microscope in their setting through a panel reviewed application process.

These are some of the teams and individuals known to X-WOW where a microscope, which we would consider redundant, could make a huge difference.

Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM)

CHAM is a Church-owned health, not-for-profit entity operated by members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC). Microscopes are used for two main reasons in the laboratories:

  1. In the diagnosis of severe Malaria cases for Malaria parasite density, species identification and assessment of treatment progress. Malaria is the second biggest killer of children under 5 in Malawi. The absence of microscopes in rural community hospitals prevents prompt and effective management of severe Malaria because local health centres cannot test to diagnose and therefore have to refer the patient on to a further district hospital.
  2. For TB microscopy which determines presence of Tubercle bacilli in pulmonary TB cases suspects. Pulmonary TB has potential of being spread in crowded and poor ventilated areas – so prompt diagnosis is essential in reducing subsequent cases. CHAM facilities that have no microscope also struggle to diagnose TB.
Olaniyi Owoeye, Nigerian Haematologist

Olaniyi practices at the University Teaching Hospital in Ilorin, Nigeria.

“Microscopes, even teaching microscopes, are grossly limited and the few that are available are limited and often prone to damages due to overuse wear and tear.

In my unit, since the beginning of 2016, specialists and trainee fellows have been limited to only one functional simple microscope which we have had to share week-in, week-out since then! The challenge that this poses to proper training at all levels cannot be overemphasised.”

Blessing Oyeleye, Nigerian Veterinary Medicine Student

Blessing Oyeleye

“I asked questions as to why people that I loved died, and I realised that micro-organisms led to abnormalities that eventually caused their death, so as a child I resolved to study micro-organisms deeply in order to help society because if there were people who are deeply knowledgeable in microbiology and pathology these deaths could have been prevented and pain avoided.

Looking around my immediate environment, it became obvious that many kids and colleagues are hindered in their scientific and professional studies due to the lingering absence of a microscope. I have always been looking for a way to solve this problem but the cost of procuring a microscope is not within the means your average person.

With group and personal testimonies such as these it is not surprising that Zimbabwe, for example, was reported to have only nine working pathologists, five histopathologists, four haematologists, and no chemical or forensic pathologists for a population of 13 million in 2016.

Having worked in the medical device field for many years, and having seen inside many labs, Matthew Holland has recognised the potential of the X-WOW project and he asks, ‘why let the un-used equipment in your organisation go to waste?’

Get involved

Your retired laboratory equipment could make a huge difference to diagnosis and patient outcomes and capacity for training and research in microbiology in places with severe need.

If you, or your place of work, have a retired microscope, or other equipment taking up space which could be donated to a resource limited lab or medical school, X-WOW would love to hear from you: contact them with the details and pictures via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @X_WowCom.


Yuchun Ding is Research Associate in Digital Pathology, Newcastle University. He will be speaking at the 6th Digital Pathology & AI Congress: Europe on using modern technologies to diagnose cancer in children in Malawi remotely.


Join us at the 6th Digital Pathology & AI Congress: Europe to explore the adoption and integration of digital pathology and the the latest developments in automated image analysis. Download the agenda here.

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