Computer-aided bacillus detection in whole-slide pathological images using a deep convolutional neural network

Chung Ming Lo, Yu Hung Wu, Yu Chuan (Jack) Li, Chieh Chi Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Mycobacterial infections continue to greatly affect global health and result in challenging histopathological examinations using digital whole-slide images (WSIs), histopathological methods could be made more convenient. However, screening for stained bacilli is a highly laborious task for pathologists due to the microscopic and inconsistent appearance of bacilli. This study proposed a computer-aided detection (CAD) system based on deep learning to automatically detect acid-fast stained mycobacteria. A total of 613 bacillus-positive image blocks and 1202 negative image blocks were cropped from WSIs (at approximately 20 x 20 pixels) and divided into training and testing samples of bacillus images. After randomly selecting 80% of the samples as the training set and the remaining 20% of samples as the testing set, a transfer learning mechanism based on a deep convolutional neural network (DCNN) was applied with a pretrained AlexNet to the target bacillus image blocks. The transferredDCNNmodel generated the probability that each image block contained a bacillus. A probability higher than 0.5 was regarded as positive for a bacillus. Consequently, the DCNN model achieved an accuracy of 95.3%, a sensitivity of 93.5%, and a specificity of 96.3%. For samples without color information, the performances were an accuracy of 73.8%, a sensitivity of 70.7%, and a specificity of 75.4%. The proposed DCNN model successfully distinguished bacilli from other tissues with promising accuracy. Meanwhile, the contribution of color information was revealed. This information will be helpful for pathologists to establish a more efficient diagnostic procedure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4059
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Convolutional neural network
  • Digital pathology
  • Mycobacterial infection
  • Whole-slide images

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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