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Big step towards defeating tuberculosis

by Sharon Chepngetich

Tuberculosis (TB) is highly treatable but remains an unsolved problem. According to World Health Organization (WHO), about one-third of the world’s population has latent TB- people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not yet ill with TB and cannot transmit the disease.

Another huge obstacle to the fight against the disease is identifying people who don’t know they have been infected. Such people can unknowingly transmit the illness to a huge number of people. Up to 10-15 other people can be affected through close contact with people ill with TB over the course of a year, the WHO report states.

Unfortunately, due to the taboo surrounding the disease, quite a number of people are reluctant to get tested. In order to stop the disease in its tracks, Delfts Imaging System, a Dutch Company, has devised a smart solution.

The company has developed brightly colored, solar powered mobile clinics that are self-sufficient and can drive to the remotest areas in the bush, desert or countryside in order to screen the local inhabitants for tuberculosis.

The attractive design of the clinics, which don’t suggest they are associated with TB in any way, shape or form; helps make diagnosis and treatment more accessible and acceptable.

Guido Geerts, CEO of Delft Imaging systems, is proud of this valuable innovation in the fight against TB. “In many places, especially remote areas, TB is a major taboo because people don’t want to be associated with the disease in any way, they often only see a doctor once they really have to,” he says.

“As a result, these people could be walking around with the illness for months or even years, unwillingly infecting the people around them.”

The CEO says the mobile clinics can help to counteract this taboo and diagnose TB anywhere in the world, which will be a major step towards the struggle to wipe out the disease once and for all.

The design of the clinics, Geerts explains, are carefully done to make them attract people who are mainly interested in the artwork, at which point they often come inside to take a test there and then it’s a win-win.

Delft imaging systems has since inception been on a mission to make modern medical care accessible to many. Headquartered in Veenendaal, Netherlands, the company specializes in diagnostic equipment, e-health software and related products.

To help in the fight against TB around the world, a statement from the firm says, Delft Imaging systems is actively participating in 45 projects in 35 different countries, providing innovative solutions that have enabled TB screening of over three million people.

Innovative systems such as these are a key factor in providing good quality healthcare in vulnerable communities and developing nations.

In Africa, for instance, tuberculosis has been a major concern for various governments, owing to its first manifestation to HIV infection, and the leading cause of death among the HIV-infected patients.

WHO factsheet report reveals that some 2.5 million people fell ill with TB in Africa in 2016, accounting for a quarter of new TB cases reported worldwide. An estimated 417,000 people died from the disease in the continent during the year, including 250,000 children.

“Tuberculosis is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/AIDS. Seven countries account for 64 percent of the new TB cases in 2016, with India leading the count, followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa,” the report states.

Luckily, ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals. And global companies such as Delft Imaging Systems are actively playing a role in this vision.

In Ghana, Delft Imaging Systems, with support from the Dutch government ORIO grant, Oldelft Benelux and the Universal Hospital Group, has installed 52 x-ray systems, equipped with Computer Aided Detection for TB and teleradiology technology.

18 of these x-ray units are permanently installed in hospitals across the country, allowing the equipments to be used for a variety of other health problems in addition to TB diagnosis.

Additionally, Delft delivered 30 semi-mobile clinics and 4 mobile one-stop TB clinics. The clinics are self-sustainable and all-terrain screening vans have the capability to travel to Ghana’s most vulnerable communities.

“All of the x-ray units are connected to a central database and diagnostic viewing station using Delft’s teleradiology, allowing healthcare providers to call in expertise remotely when needed,” a statement from the firm reads, adding:

“We’re proud to say that our efforts in Ghana already greatly contributed to the detection and diagnosis of TB. More than 60,000 people have been screened and the cost of detecting active TB cases has reduced significantly.”

The firm has also installed one-stop TB clinics in Malawi and Nigeria, and it is offering screening services to inmates in South Africa’s correctional Services. With such initiatives, Delft could well be on its way to putting a stop to one of the greatest healthcare challenges worldwide once and for all.


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