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Recognizing the value of newly available Internet communications, investigators from the Division of Parasitic Diseases (DPD), at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conceived of and developed a project, DPDx, that provides online assistance in identification of parasites and distance-based training. The DPDx project includes a website, available since March 1998 at <http://www.dpd.cdc.gov/dpdx>, which is designed to provide laboratorians with the latest information on parasites and the diseases they cause.
The DPDx website contains: reviews of over 100 parasites, an image library and video clips, diagnostic procedures, and diagnostic assistance. For each parasite listed, the information provided in the Parasites and Health section of DPDx includes the basics on the causal parasitic agent and its life cycles, as well as geographic distribution, clinical features, laboratory diagnosis, and treatment of the parasitic diseases they cause. The Image Library contains over 400 images for laboratorians to browse through; images in the library show different parasitic stages (cysts, trophozoites, eggs, larvae, etc.), and the life cycle of the parasites. As in the Parasites and Health section, images are catalogued both by the name of the parasite and the disease they cause. The images in the library were captured using a specialized digital camera mounted onto a microscope. Information on how to collect, process, stain, and properly ship blood, stool, serum/plasma, and other specimens is also available on DPDx through the Diagnostic Procedures section. The Diagnostic Assistance section contains instructions for health care professionals on how to obtain telediagnosis consultation from CDC. This section also contains instructions for the general public on how to obtain additional information about parasitic diseases, including links to other useful websites.
The telediagnosis assistance feature of the website is one of the major emphases of the DPDx project. Distal laboratories, domestic and international, can transmit images of clinical specimens via email to the laboratories at DPD for definitive identification and receive a quicker answer to their questions than if they had to send the actual specimen via mail. Speed can be an important factor in providing proper treatment of patients in life threatening cases. Currently, 36 state and local health departments in the United States have been provided grants to acquire telediagnosis systems. These systems include a digital camera mounted on a microscope, a computer able to connect to the Internet, and image-editing software.
The DPDx website receives an average of 2,200 visits per day from health departments, clinicians, universities, and research institutions in the United States and abroad searching for information on parasites. Because it has proven so useful, the information on the DPDx website is also available on CD-ROM format to serve as a reference material for users prevented from accessing the Internet. DPDx is an innovative way to identify parasitic infections and allows for a speedier diagnosis and treatment of parasitic diseases.
Copyright© 2002 Corporation for National Research Initiatives