Uganda: How Smartphones Are Helping Malaria Testing

Did you know that malaria kills over 400,000 people per year globally?

This episode will be about how a project in Uganda is reaching underserved areas where testing for malaria can be challenging and having the diagnosis early can be a matter of life or death.

So I invited not one but 3 guests to talk about the project. In the first part of the episode I spoke to Professor Jon Cooper and Julien Reboud from the Bioengineering school at the University of Glasgow – we talked about how the project came about – the technology behind the testing – cleverly named origami testing because it is based on folded sheets of waxed paper. Also, how smartphones are used as a power source providing electricity to process the test.

Here is the origami test in action

Origami testing demo

In the second part, I spoke to Lito Michala, Lecturer at the University of Glasgow in the school of computing science focused on IoT.

We talked about why they chose the blockchain technology to store and share the data of the malaria test results. It was a very interesting chat and worth a listen, even if you are not too familiar with what the blockchain technology is.

And here is the app for the malaria test results.

The app is a key feature. It has a few aims:

  • Enables to run the assay: the app controls the heating in the reaction and the phone actually can power the heating step as well. That means that we have all the quality control data (temperature curves) to check that the assay worked.
  • Enables decision support: as an edge node, it allows to implement the ML algorithm for identifying the results correctly.
  • It records all the required data (patient info when required – not for this study but as a ‘product’ it will – in the study, it was just an anonymous identifier) and the results and shift it to the cloud infrastructure for surveillance or decision support, using blockchain.

A big thanks to the guys of news site The Conversation where I read about the project for the first time. They have very interesting content about global issues and a podcast called The Conversation weekly.

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