Cambridge Consultants have developed a technology demonstrator that could eventually help to save the lives of over one million children a year.
They have worked with non-profit organisation Diagnostics For All to produce a smartphone app that accurately assesses the immunity status of a child.
According to product developers Cambridge Consultants, an estimated 1.5 million children from around the world die annually from vaccine-preventable diseases.
In use, a healthcare or aid agency worker takes a swab from around a child’s gumline, which is then transferred to a paper-based diagnostic device.
David Chastain, programme manager at Cambridge Consultants explained that a brief incubation period follows when the sample migrates through the paper layer.
Chris Wagner principal engineer at Cambridge Consultants added that the two-step process takes around 25 minutes.
The paper-based diagnostic device will then change colour depending on the results of the assay.
In theory, it would be possible for the person administering the test to interpret the results visually but this method is prone to errors.
Instead, a healthcare or aid agency worker opens up the app on a smartphone to photograph the test.
Wagner said: ‘While they [the tests] can be visually read, sometimes the colour changes subtly and adding imaging processing and computer processing on top of that gives another layer of confidence…in extracting results from the test.’
He added that the app will guide the healthcare or agency worker through steps that have to be done at a particular point in time to ensure the accuracy of the test.
Wagner said: ‘Once you have that in the phone you can upload the results to a number of different places like a central data collection or to satellite healthcare facilities for data recording…it opens up a number of possibilities for data archiving and communication.’
The app can be used on any smartphone with sufficient processing power and camera quality.
‘That’s part of the internal control of the app that we’ve built in both into the test and into the app – a way of guaranteeing the image quality that is present, so that we can reliably take the picture and analyse the result,’ said Chastain. ‘There are checks to see if, not only the phone but the actual picture taken is of high enough quality to make the assessment.’
The app, estimated by DFA to cost ‘a few dollars’, can also test the active status of the vaccination.
‘You can imagine getting a vaccination and maybe it didn’t take or maybe it wasn’t administered properly – this gives you the actual status in the person of the antibody,’ said Chastain