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NLM Project to Improve Malaria Diagnosis Wins HHS Funding

Researchers at the National Library of Medicine are collaborating on a software tool to speed up the diagnosis of malaria. They’ve developed an automated system for detecting and counting parasites in blood films. The goal is to develop a version for smartphones so it can be used in the field. The project, Watch it, Parasite!, is an idea so promising, the US Department of Health and Human Services will provide support from the HHS Innovation Ventures Fund Program to take this early-stage idea to the next level.

The current standard method for malaria diagnosis in the field is light microscopy of blood films. About 170 million blood films are examined every year for malaria, which involves manual counting of parasites. To improve malaria diagnostics, the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, an R&D division of the National Library of Medicine, in collaboration with NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Mahidol-Oxford University, is developing a fully-automated system for parasite detection and counting in blood films. While existing drugs make malaria a curable disease, inadequate diagnostics and emerging drug resistance are major barriers to successful mortality reduction. The development of a fast and reliable diagnostic test is therefore one of the most promising ways of fighting malaria, together with better treatment, development of new malaria vaccines, and mosquito control.

Read more about this project by visiting NLM in Focus.

NLM Community Health Maps (CHM) Project: User Needs Survey

The National Library of Medicine needs your help reaching out to current and potential users of low-cost and easy-to-use online mapping tools (GIS). The Community Health Maps (CHM) project identifies and promotes tools that seek to meet the mapping needs of communities and community organizations such as clinics, schools, libraries, health departments, faith-based and community-based groups. These tools can be used to collect and visualize health statistics and local resources, to compare data across locations, and to explore trends. In order to improve CHM and better tailor it for the specific requirements of users, please share this GIS user needs survey!

NLM Launches Two New Traveling Exhibitions!

1880 advertisement for a children's remedy

The National Library of Medicine has launched two new traveling banner exhibitions, Pick Your Poison: Intoxicating Pleasures & Medical Prescriptions and Pictures of Nursing: The Zwerdling Collection. Pick Your Poison explores the factors that have shaped the changing definition of some of our most potent drugs, from acceptable indulgences to bad habits, or vice versa. While some mind-altering drugs have remained socially acceptable throughout the history of America, such as alcohol; others, like heroin and cocaine, are now outlawed because of their toxic, and intoxicating, characteristics. These classifications have shifted over time, influenced by the intentions and societal status of those endorsing each drug’s use, and will continue to change. The exhibition features photographs and images of rare books, ephemera, and historical objects from the collections of the National Library of Medicine. Pick Your Poison is available for booking now. Check the Pick Your Poison traveling exhibition services website for more booking information.

Pictures of Nursing presents a selection of historic postcards from NLM’s recently-acquired Zwerdling postcard collection, an archive of over 2,500 items spanning a century of nursing imagery. Nurses and nursing have been the frequent subjects of postcards. These images are informed by cultural values; ideas about women, men, and work; and by attitudes toward class, race, and national differences. By documenting the relationship of nursing to significant forces in 20th-century life, such as war and disease, these postcards reveal how nursing was seen during those times. The traveling banner exhibition is available for booking now. Visit Pictures of Nursing traveling exhibition services for more information.

NLM Toxicology & Environmental Health Information Update: TOXMAP and TRI Data

Both versions of TOXMAP, classic and beta, now include the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) 2013 National Analysis data, as well as recent cancer and disease mortality data from NCI SEER. This is the first version of the TOXMAP beta with health data, whereas mortality data in TOXMAP classic has been updated. To view national county-level cancer and disease mortality data from 2007-2011 in TOXMAP beta, bring up the US Census & Health Data window and navigate to the Mortality tab. Two sub-tabs list cancer and disease mortality layers that can be overlaid on the map (one at a time).

TOXMAP maps the TRI chemicals reported to the EPA, as required by the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). A complete list of TRI chemicals required to be reported to the EPA can be found on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program website.

New Name for PubMed Related Citations Discovery Tool

The PubMed “Related citations” feature will soon be renamed to “Similar articles.” “Similar articles” was chosen because “Related citations” is ambiguous. There are several types of relationships that articles may have. The algorithm to generate the results has not been modified. The link name will be updated on the Summary results. The Abstract display discovery tool title will also be renamed. To see illustrations of the new feature, visit the NLM Technical Bulletin.

Tox Town Updates the “Town” Neighborhood Scene

The National Library of Medicine’s Tox Town resource now has an updated Town neighborhood with a new photorealistic look. All of the location and chemical information is the same, but the new graphics allow users to better identify with real-life locations. The Town scene is now available in HTML5 so, in addition to computers, it can be accessed on a variety of personal electronic devices, including ipads, ipad minis, and tablets. Regardless of where you live, you will definitely want to visit the updated Town neighborhood and learn about possible environmental health risks in a typical town.

NLM Honors Nobel Laureate Marshall Nirenberg Who Deciphered the Genetic Code

Fifty years ago, Marshall W. Nirenberg, PhD, deciphered the genetic code. It led to a Nobel Prize—the first for a scientist at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Nirenberg’s family recently donated his Nobel Prize medal to the National Library of Medicine to be added to the papers and other items that chronicle his contributions to science. NLM’s History of Medicine Division hosted the first of three events at NIH that will celebrate the legacy of Marshall Nirenberg, who died in 2010, and the fiftieth anniversary of his deciphering of the genetic code. Subsequent events will be announced by the NIH Office of Intramural Research.

A Tribute to Marshall Nirenberg was filled with personal stories from his wife; from a scientist in his lab; and from a historian who helped develop NLM’s Nirenberg collection. The event, held March 17, was recorded and can be viewed on demand. One of the most significant pieces in the Nirenberg collection is the chart that is the first summary of the genetic code. Dated January 18, 1965, when more than half of the code had been deciphered, the document, with curatorial notes provided by Serlin, was recently added to NLM’s Turning the Pages project, which is available online and as an iPad app. Dr. Nirenberg won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1968. He shared the award with Har Gobind Khorana of the University of Wisconsin and Robert W. Holley of the Salk Institute.

Indexes Tab Removed from NLM Technical Bulletin Navigation Bar

As of April 21, 2015, the “Indexes” tab was removed from the NLM Technical Bulletin navigation bar. Instead, use the search box in the top right corner of every page to find articles and other content published from 1969 to present. Articles and other content from 1969 – 1996 are available as PDF; from 1997 forward are available as HTML.

Keep It Simple with Micro-Surveys

A hot trend in marketing research is the micro-survey. Also known as the bite-sized survey, these questionnaires are short (about three questions) with the goal of collecting focused feedback to guide specific action. The micro-survey is a technique for overcoming what is arguably the biggest hurdle in survey assessment: Getting people to respond to your questionnaire. It is a technique that is particularly useful for populations where mobile technology use is on the rise, and where there is competition for everyone’s attention in any given moment. To better expect respondents to answer questionnaires, don’t burden them with long, matrix-like questions or require them to flip through numerous web pages. Keep things simple, or respondents will be lost before they ever get to the submit button.

The trick to micro-surveys is to keep them short, but administer multiple questionnaires over time. For example, break down a traditional membership or customer questionnaire into several micro-surveys and distribute them periodically. The length of the survey is not the only factor contributing to response rate. Follow the Dillman method, which provides time-tested guidelines for administering surveys. Also, take a look at Champagne’s Nine Principles of Embedded Assessment. His website has articles and YouTube videos on how to implement these principles. If you want to try doing a micro-survey, check out the effective practices described in this blog article from the marketing research company Instantly.

NLM Announces Pill Image Recognition Request for Information (RFI)

As part of its ongoing work to develop an infrastructure and tools for identifying prescription pills, the National Library of Medicine has announced a new Request for Information (RFI). This is NOT a solicitation for proposals, proposal abstracts, or quotations. The purpose of this RFI is to obtain knowledge and information for project planning purposes. The government will not award a contract on the basis of this notice, or otherwise pay for information solicited by it. Proprietary information should be clearly marked. The requested information is for planning and market research purposes only and will not be publicly released. This Request for Information (RFI) is a pilot for a forthcoming Pill Image Recognition Challenge for visually identifying pills. The Challenge has as its main objective the development and discovery of high-quality software that matches images of unknown prescription pills to images in the RxIMAGE database. The pilot will help ensure that the Challenge is successful.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Computational Photography Project for Pill Identification (C3PI) is developing infrastructure and tools for identifying prescription pills. The infrastructure includes NLM’s RxIMAGE database of freely available, high quality prescription pill images and associated pill data. One tool is the freely accessible RxIMAGE API (Application Programming Interface) for text-based search and retrieval of images and data from the RxIMAGE database.

NLM now seeks to expand the toolset to include smart phone apps to visually search for and retrieve pill images and data. A person will photograph an unknown prescription pill, possibly under poor lighting conditions, from an angle, or at low resolution. The app will return one or more RxIMAGE images and data that are most likely to match the photographed pill. Respondents to the RFI are asked to submit executable software that matches consumer images – photos of pills taken by cell phone digital cameras – with reference images obtained from images in the RxIMAGE database.

The start date for accepting responses to this RFI is April 6, 2015. The end date for accepting responses to this RFI is May 15, 2015. For full information about the RFI, visit the NLM News & Events and NLM Pill Image Recognition Pilot (PIR Pilot) websites.