Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pee on Paper to Treat TB – Here's How?

Effective treatment of tuberculosis entails adhering to lengthy TB pharma drugs regimen. To ensure that people follow through the duration of treatment scientists have found a clever way in which simply peeing on paper can lead you to comply with treatment.

Tuberculosis or TB is an airborne infectious disease that's curable. However it requires strict compliance with TB drugs for months. And many people, especially in poor countries drop out in the middle because the drugs can trigger nausea and other side effects. This in turn is leads to a relapse with drug resistant strains of bacteria, making treatment difficult. The consequences are evident from TB statistics. According to the WHO, TB afflicts millions worldwide – of the 9.2 million cases newly diagnosed in 2006, 1.7 million people succumbed to the disease.

The Pee based approach to TB treatment

Staff from the Innovations in International Health (IIH) project at MIT, recently devised a program which uses paper-based diagnostics called “XoutTB” with text-messaging technology and service to improve tuberculosis (TB) treatment compliance in poor countries.

At the heart of the program lies a rewards schedule, whereby patients complying with to the TB drug regimens consistently for 30 days are rewarded with cell-phone minutes, encouraging them further.

To track compliance, the participants are required to pee on a paper-based diagnostic equipment, which is dispensed once each day. The device is able to detect the metabolites of the TB drug in urine – accurately assessing whether the drugs were consumed or not. Also the reaction between the drug molecules in urine and the chemicals embedded in the paper devices uncover a code that the participants need to text-message to a central database. A consistent record of compliance for 30 days is rewarded with free minuets.

It's simple and hopefully will turn out to be quite effective, as the trials are still on. While the real work is still accomplished by the good old TB drugs, the pee based diagnostics are central to making that happen. Now, that's what I'd call real waste management!

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