June 4, 2012

Soda Cooler Helps Fight Tuberculosis?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - An estimated 5,000 people die from tuberculosis every day. That´s 1.8 million people annually. Even though TB is largely controlled in the industrialized world, it remains a persistent killer in most of Africa, as well as parts of Asia and South America.

Unfortunately, the fight against TB has been slowed down due to multi-drug resistant strains of the disease. There are two main reasons for this. First, the drugs used to treat the disease must be kept at a controlled low temperature - in places where electricity is unreliable. Second, the drugs must be taken regularly, requiring constant monitoring by health care workers.

Now a modified soft-drink cooler could help with these issues. Researchers at the Little Devices Lab adapted a breadbox sized cooler dubbed "CoolComply," which can run on either plug-in power or solar cells. The cooler monitors inside temperature, records the date and time when the box is opened, and sends all of this data to a central health facility.

At present, since many of the patients entering treatment lack access to refrigerators, they are instead provided with coolers requiring daily deliveries of ice; their compliance with the dosage regime is checked regularly by visiting health workers. Those constraints severely limit the number of patients who can be treated, lab instructor; Jose Gómez-Márquez was quoted as saying. The daily ice deliveries cost $600 a year – about double the cost of the CoolComply system.

The CoolComply team won a $100,000 award last fall as a Vodaphone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project, as well as a $50,000 grant from the Harvard Catalyst. The awards will see the project through initial development and testing.

Source: MIT's D-Lab May 2012