Applications of Wood’s Lamp Technology to Detect Skin Infections in Resource-Constrained Settings

Holly Cardillo, Jennifer Kohler, Ellie Kriner, and Khanjan Mehta

Global Humanitarian Technology Conference

Cardillo, H., Kohler, J., Kriner, E., Mehta, K., “Applications of Wood’s Lamp Technology to Detect Skin Infections in Resource-Constrained Settings,” Global Humanitarian Technology Conference, San Jose, CA, Oct 2014


Skin diseases such as Tinea Capitis, Scabies and Erythrasma are serious and common problems in developing countries. Unfortunately they are often overlooked and left untreated, causing extreme discomfort to those afflicted. Their contagious nature is also compromising to community health as a whole. Early detection of opportunistic infections often leads to the diagnosis of more serious immuno-compromising diseases such as HIV. This article investigates the feasibility of using a UV light source called Wood’s Lamp to detect the presence of select fungal, bacterial and parasitic skin infections. A Wood’s Lamp is based on fluorescence – the phenomenon by which light excites valence electrons in certain fungi and bacteria and results in a fluorescent emission visible to the naked eye. Traditional Wood’s Lamps use UV tube lights that are fragile and unsuitable for the harsh operating environments of developing countries. The recent emergence of UV LED-based lamps has led to compact, ruggedized and low-cost devices with good contrast that can be used by low-skilled health workers. This article synthesizes the capabilities and applications of this proven effective yet underutilized technology and illustrates how it can be integrated into fledgling healthcare systems in developing countries.


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