Diagnostiques Sans Frontières: Low-Cost, Rapid Diagnostics for Everyone
*Initial efforts from the University of Cambridge and international partners to develop new biomedical rapid tests to tackle diarrheal diseases and malaria will be described. Potential implications on public health policies and telecommunications industry will be discussed.*
Only 10 of 67 countries with high child mortality rate are on track towards Millennium Development Goal 4: Reducing Child Mortality. Many of these countries, predominantly in Africa and South East Asia, are struggling to make improvements in their public health sector despite the support of international organizations. Highest mortality rates are still in Sub-Saharan Africa where 4.4 million children under the age of five claimed annually, corresponding to half of the child deaths worldwide. The UN called for an action to reduce diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, and malaria which continue to stay as the leading causes of child mortality. Although, many of these diseases are preventable and treatable, the international community has failed to address and control these diseases. Obstacles include lack of infrastructure, mobility, and shortages in skilled healthcare workers.
Healthcare monitoring is typically performed in centralized laboratories, most often out of reach for those living in resource-limited regions. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop low-cost, easy-to-use, mobile, rapid biomedical tests to monitor human illnesses. Until recently, using rapid diagnostics with telecommunication technologies presented a major technology challenge significantly limiting progress towards Millennium Development Goal 4. However, high mobile phone penetration and rapidly growing telecommunications infrastructure in the developing world created an opportunity to provide low-cost diagnostics. As will be demonstrated, the advent of telemedicine now provides us with new opportunities for developing novel devices and interfaces that are adequate for monitoring infectious diseases in remote regions, although some fabrication and interface problems are yet to be resolved.