New mobile app to diagnose TB

Tuberculosis is one of leading causes of deaths worldwide and is particularly prevalent in rural areas of South East Asia. Scientists have developed a new mobile phone app to diagnose the disease in a matter of minutes. The technology could revolutionise treatment in low-income countries where healthcare workers have limited access to testing and treatment facilities.

Computer scientists at Anglia Ruskin University and Universiti Putra in Malaysia have developed an affordable mobile phone testing system which has a 98.4 per cent accuracy rate in diagnosing the deadly lung disease.

The research team has created a system which enables doctors or other health workers to detect TB-specific antibodies in a patient’s sputum. The patient produces a sample of sputum which is put onto a tiny biosensor device. This produces a colour, depending on whether it is positive or negative for TB. Using a smartphone's camera, the app then analyses the colour and delivers a diagnosis immediately.

The app can be used offline so works in remote areas, where lab facilities are hard to reach. The final cost for the system — downloading the app and purchasing the biosensor — could be as little as £2 to £3, depending on funding and uptake. The scientists hope that the diagnostic test will be ready to launch in two years.

"Our system is a portable, cheap and accurate automatic TB diagnosis tool which can benefit millions of people"

Professor Alamgir Hossain, Anglia Ruskin University.

This research was supported by the British Council and Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) under the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund. Find out more about the British Council’s Newton Fund programmes. Watch a video about the project made by Anglia Ruskin University.

Project title: TB-Test – A smart mobile enabled scheme for tuberculosis testing

Project leads: Professor Alamgir Hossain, Anglia Ruskin University and Professor Nor Azah Yusof, Universiti Putra Malaysia

Delivery partnersBritish Council and Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT)

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