SEATTLE, Washington — India is located in South Asia with the second-largest population in the world. Unfortunately, tuberculosis is very prominent throughout India. According to the World Health Organization in 2018, India was one of eight countries in the world that account for two-thirds of new tuberculosis cases. In an attempt to combat this, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, launched the TB Free India campaign. This campaign hopes to eradicate the disease by 2025. Thankfully, Docturnal, a healthcare firm that creates devices to detect lung-based diseases, has created an app used to detect tuberculosis in India.
Tuberculosis: A Disease of Poverty
Unfortunately, tuberculosis is a disease that disproportionately affects people living in poverty. The Washington Post reported that India no longer has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty within their country as of 2018. However, this does not mean it is no longer an issue. Only five percent of India’s population is living in extreme poverty, but these numbers are higher in rural areas.
When it comes to the major states within the country, five out of 17 are located in rural areas. These five rural states account for almost two-thirds of India’s poor population. In 2016, the World Bank found that 80 percent of India’s poor population lived in rural areas. As these numbers show, poverty is still a pressing issue within rural parts of India. Further, people living in poverty and rural areas are at higher risk to contract tuberculosis.
Those living in rural areas are also less likely to receive proper treatment or testing. Along with this, those in rural areas are more likely to contract tuberculosis due to a smaller percentage of quality sanitation facilities in comparison to people living in urban areas. In order to reach India’s goal of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025, big steps are necessary to improve testing for high-risk populations, such as those living in poverty and rural areas.
TimBre: An App Used To Detect Tuberculosis
Docturnal has developed TimBre, an app used to detect tuberculosis in patients. TimBre is able to test patients for tuberculosis by recording and analyzing their coughs. By simply requiring a recording of a patient’s cough, this app makes detection much easier. Additionally, the app is much less invasive than other forms of tests that require skin or blood samples. Along with this, TimBre is able to deliver instant results, whereas other tests take up to two or three days.
These factors will allow for higher testing rates in rural areas where it is difficult to deliver medical supplies. TimBre is not available to all of India yet, but it still has made some impressive achievements. To test the app, a group of 7,000 people infected with tuberculosis acted as the test-group. Out of those people tested, TimBre was able to detect tuberculosis cases at an accuracy rate of more than 85 percent.
So far, Docturnal has raised $250,000 for the development of TimBre. This initiative has received support from large, state-run groups throughout India, such as the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program and the State TB Office of Telangana. Currently, the app is being used as a pilot project in hospitals throughout the Indian city Hyderabad. This app used to detect tuberculosis still has significant room to grow, but it is on the right track.
The Future of TB Free and TimBre
One of the main goals of the TB Free India campaign launched by Prime Minister Modi is to create innovative and technological-based solutions to reach populations at higher risks of contracting the disease. This app certainly targets this goal. TimBre’s high detection rate of 85 percent can improve the lives of all throughout India.
Further, the app’s ability to provide quick, easy and non-invasive testing can significantly increase the number of people being treated for the disease in rural and poverty-stricken areas. Currently, the app is currently only provided in Hyderabad. Hopefully, after further testing, TimBre can be brought to all areas of the country. India has invested more than $1.68 billion in eradicating tuberculosis by 2025. In order to achieve this goal, it would be beneficial if India’s government-supported technological-driven solutions such as TimBre.
– James Turner