Center's New Microscope Can Photograph, Display Slides

October 30, 2003
By Nick Engstorm
The Cambodia Daily


Sen Nhip's sleeves were rolled up. She placed her arm through the net draped over the mosquitoes' cage. The mosquitoes came quickly to feed on her arm. This was a part of her job.


"She invites the mosquitoes to have a party on her arm about a once week," Dr. Tho Sochantha, head of entomology, said as she held her arm in the cage.


These anopheles mosquitoes are bred in the National Malaria Center's laboratory and not infected with malaria, so Sen Nihip's hardships won't advance beyond an itchy, blotched right arm, Tho Sochatha, said.


Tho Sochantha gave a tour of the laboratory on the third floor of the malaria center. One notices first the dearth of technology. But that will change soon.


The World Health Organization, under its training and supplies program, has paid more than $12,500 for a new Japanese made olympus microscope to be shipped to the center in Phnom Penh from Singapore.


It is that first advanced technology instrument the center has received, center director Dr. Duong Socheat said Tuesday.


"The WHO responds in all financial emergencies," he said. "If you have a temporary shortage of funds, the WHO will help out."


The microscope will be used for training entomology students. With five viewing stations attached to the microscope, four trainees and the teacher can view the same slide simultaneously.


The microscope also has an attached digital camera and a corresponding monitor with 2.5 million pixel image accuracy. An entire classroom can see what is on the slide through the monitor.


"Now, when we are studying slides of parasites in the blood smears, we can show the image to the entire class," Duong Socheat said. "When the parasite moves or if it should lay eggs, you can take the pictures and show the students."


The new microscope will bring an air of technical sophistication to the lab's current make-do approach. The microscope will soon join the caged mosquitoes, the bitten arm and the women who place dead mosquitoes from the remote area provinces in small plastic vials for dissection and study later.


Aside from Sen Nhip's arm being bitten, another woman, Mao Srey Touch, prepared the newest batch of anopheles mosquito pupae to be put inside the cages where they will grow to adult mosquitoes. Anopheles mosquitoes are the type that carry malaria.


When asked if there was any other way to feed them besides Sen Nhip's arm, Tho Sochantha said that anopheles mosquitoes are picky eaters and like only sugar and human blood.


"If we need to feed a lot of them at once, we will give them an animal," he said.


Unfortunately for Sen Nhip, the mosquitoes cannot feed on the microscope.