A deep learning approach for segmentation of red blood cell images and malaria detection

Maria Delgado-Ortet, Angel Molina, Santiago Alférez, José Rodellar, Anna Merino

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch Articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Malaria is an endemic life-threating disease caused by the unicellular protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Confirming the presence of parasites early in all malaria cases ensures species-specific antimalarial treatment, reducing the mortality rate, and points to other illnesses in negative cases. However, the gold standard remains the light microscopy of May-Grünwald–Giemsa (MGG)-stained thin and thick peripheral blood (PB) films. This is a time-consuming procedure, dependent on a pathologist’s skills, meaning that healthcare providers may encounter difficulty in diagnosing malaria in places where it is not endemic. This work presents a novel three-stage pipeline to (1) segment erythrocytes, (2) crop and mask them, and (3) classify them into malaria infected or not. The first and third steps involved the design, training, validation and testing of a Segmentation Neural Network and a Convolutional Neural Network from scratch using a Graphic Processing Unit. Segmentation achieved a global accuracy of 93.72% over the test set and the specificity for malaria detection in red blood cells (RBCs) was 87.04%. This work shows the potential that deep learning has in the digital pathology field and opens the way for future improvements, as well as for broadening the use of the created networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number657
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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