A low cost, new technology promises to improve tu

Publicação: 13 de July de 2012


Community members are trained to use a rating system program, via cell phone, to identify potential patients with tuberculosis

“Current tuberculosis technologies have reached their limit. New advances in disease control are only possible with the development of innovative approaches”, says the director of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Federal University of Grande Dourados (UFGD), Dr. Júlio Croda, stating that the initiative suggested by the Stop TB Partnership and mHealth Alliance provides enormous benefits. “New technologies, which have the aim of early detection of cases, are key to reduce the transmission and incidence of tuberculosis”, he says.

A recently published TB Online article, shows that the action of the Stop TB Partnership and mHealth Alliance is in line with the proposal of the innovation expert in the tuberculosis field. “Community members are trained to use a rating system program, via cell phone, to identify potential tuberculosis patients. These people are encouraged to go to health clinics and hospitals for a tuberculosis diagnostic test”, the expert explains. The Project gives community members a cash incentive for each detected case. Furthermore, awareness campaigns through posters, leaflets and TV adverts encourage people who have had a persistent cough for more than two weeks to visit a local clinic for TB testing.

Dr. Croda believes that this technology is innovative, because it uses mobile devices – cell phones, PDAs and smartphones – to improve the diagnosis, treatment and disease surveillance system. He says that the studies are in progress regarding the use of mobile phone for sending images of sputum culture slides and chest radiographs. “In the field of monitoring of treatment in South Africa and Pakistan, for example, text messages  are sent to patients in order to improve treatment adherence and decrease drop-outs”, says Dr. Croda. He believes the cost of this technology will be low and funded by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Health Sciences Faculty director points out that poorer countries could greatly benefit from this technology, that the investment is relatively low and the diagnostic and treatment resources in these communities are limited. He explains that tuberculosis, even today, is a public health issue in tropical countries like Brazil. “Tuberculosis is a disease of vulnerable populations, with an umbilical connection to the social determinants. Unfortunately, such social determinants are concentrated in tropical regions of the world which, therefore, have the highest rate of the disease”, he says.

As for the possibility that the technology will be used in Brazil, Dr. Croda says that so far, its incorporation has not been discussed by the Technical Advisory Committee of the National Tuberculosis Program. “I believe that its implementation should be made ??after a careful analysis of the costs of this process, as well as pragmatic studies that validate the use of this technology in our country”, he argues. He reveals that there are currently projects that use mobile technologies for tuberculosis in many countries worldwide. “With regard to adherence to treatment, projects have been developed in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Ukraine, Kenya, South Africa, India, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Peru, Zambia, Uganda and Cambodia; regarding diagnosis: Vietnam, Zambia and Cambodia; and in relation to epidemiological surveillance: Pakistan, India and Uganda”, he says.

He points out that in recent years, several tools that use mobile technologies applied to tuberculosis, have been developed. “The organization Stop TB Partnership and mHealth Alliance is evaluating all of these technologies in order to validate, encourage, provide and fund the use of these new tools for national tuberculosis control” he says.

In the expert’s opinion, the use of mobile and low cost technology can decrease the cost of diagnosis – both with regard to diagnosis reports and the transport of material to carry out sputum culture and chest radiography.  Additionally, follow-up costs can also be reduced. “Many consultations and transportation costs can be avoided by using this technology”, he argues.…