According to a 2016 UNICEF release, pneumonia kills half a million children under five in sub-Saharan Africa every year. “Many of those deaths are because of misdiagnosis,” says Brian Turyabagye, Uganda graduate and co-designer of MamaOpe Pneumonia kit. “In the villages and remote areas, children get sick – and the first reaction is to treat them for malaria. Most people are aware of malaria, and the signs for malaria and pneumonia are very similar, so it is difficult for health professionals to differentiate.” Misdiagnosis of pneumonia is a common occurrence in the region and a more reliable method of diagnosing the disease is needed.

Turyabagye and his team have leveraged Bluetooth® technology in their design for a new biomedical application that helps with early diagnosis of pneumonia in young patients. Early detection is crucial in successfully treating pneumonia.

Pneumonia kills half a million children under five in sub-Saharan Africa every year. Many of those deaths are because of misdiagnosis.

A Smart Solution for Improving Early Detection

The MamaOpe, or Hope for the Mother, is a biomedical smart jacket and app developed for early diagnosis and continuous monitoring of pneumonia patients. The vest is specifically designed for children under five who are most prone to the disease. It is fitted with sensors that align with specific points on a child’s body.

“To detect pneumonia, you need to look at specific positions of the lungs,” said Turyabagye. “The sensors are fitted on the jacket around those very specific positions. When a child puts it on, the jacket sensors listen straight from the lungs. The inner lining also helps determine the breathing rate of the child, which can help in detecting the disease.”

Turyabagye’s design distinguishes pneumonia’s symptoms, temperature, breathing rate, and sound of the lungs, mitigating almost all human error and diagnosing pneumonia three to four times faster than a doctor. “I felt we needed to automate the whole process and make it faster and more standardized,” said Turyabagye.

The jacket connects to the mobile app via Bluetooth® technology, transmitting the recorded and analyzed data obtained from the jacket’s sensors. This helps healthcare professionals make informed diagnosis, faster.

This technology will…open the door for faster diagnosis of other related respiratory diseases, such as asthma and tuberculosis.

Why Include Bluetooth

Bluetooth® technology is synonymous with global interoperability. By including Bluetooth technology in his smart jacket design, Turyabagye is assured of the jacket’s capability to work in tandem with nearly any type of mobile device that healthcare professionals rely on, regardless of manufacturer. This makes it a simple and convenient solution for healthcare professionals and will help encourage its adoption throughout medical facilities worldwide.

Looking Forward

Currently, Turyabagye’s smart jacket is only a prototype, but it will soon be ready to undergo several months of medical testing to obtain certification from UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Meaning that within a year, we could be seeing these smart jackets on the market.

With pneumonia being such a frequently misdiagnosed illness, affecting millions each year, a reliable early detection method is crucial to successfully treating the disease and saving lives. Hopefully this technology will not only aid in the diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia, but it will also open the door for faster diagnosis of other related respiratory diseases, such as asthma and tuberculosis.

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