Researchers at the Department of Information Technology, Rajalakshmi Engineering College, in Chennai, India, have developed a new ‘tongue test system’ for faster diagnosis of diseases in remote parts of the country.
Ramamurthy and his team have trained a neural network in such a way that can take soft inputs such as standard questions about symptoms and a digitised image of the patient’s tongue. It could also offer a likely diagnosis for people in remote areas so that they can access a physician.
The digitised images of the patient’s tongue reveal discolouration, engorgement, texture and other factors that might be linked to illness. Smoothness and “beefiness” might reveal vitamin B12, iron, or folate deficiency, and anemia.
Black discolouration is seen as an indicative of fungal overgrowth in HIV patients or prolonged antibiotic use. Longitudinal furrows on the tongue are associated with syphilis. Ulcers in tongue hint about the presence of Crohn’s disease or colitis and various other conditions.
The team’s automated diagnostic, however, utilises the condition of the tongue in combination with other symptoms to identify whether a patient has any of the various illnesses: common cold, flu, bronchitis, streptococcal throat infection, sinusitis, allergies, asthma, pulmonary edema, food poisoning and diverticulitis.