Portable, Affordable, and Accurate Means of Assessing Hemoglobin Levels in Resource-Poor Settings

Portable, Affordable, and Accurate Means of Assessing Hemoglobin Levels in Resource-Poor Settings
Andrew and Virginia Rudd present big ideas winners a pitch day award, April 2012.Photo credit: Blum Center

This project addresses the unmet needs of clinics serving the most at-risk populations in developing countries, where anemia is prevalent and has a great effect on treatment of other diseases. The ability to rapidly detect hemoglobin levels throughout pregnancy and during childbirth mitigates the risks associated with anemia. Working with Dr. Megan Huchko of UCSF and Nick Pearson of the non-profit Jacaranda Health, the team seeks to develop an improved method to assessing hemoglobin levels that is affordable and accessible to mobile clinics working in resource-poor areas. One current method commonly used in clinics, the WHO Hemoglobin Color Scale (HCS), uses a comparative color scale to determine hemoglobin levels. While affordable and yielding quick results, the test is based on subjective assessment from the clinician and can give inaccurate results due to variation in color interpretation and lighting. The project’s goal is to program a phone application that can measure hemoglobin concentration based on the RGB values of a digital phone image of a blood sample, allowing for the quantification of color and eliminating the ambiguities and human error.

The State of Ear Health and Rise of Tympanocentesis

Otitis Media (OM), more commonly known as a severe ear infection, is a medical condition that is caused by a variety of pathogens and affects 70% of all children under the age of three. Currently, most ear infections are treated with multiple rounds of antibiotics. With the onset of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, this type of treatment may be inefficient, costly, and time consuming. A more effective treatment is known as Tympanocentesis, a medical procedure used for diagnosing and treating ear infections. The need for the procedure is rising along with emerging bacterial resistance, but no fully-integrated device for administering the treatment exists. Current methods involve using a spinal needle tap, fed through the viewing window of an otoscope, to puncture the ear drum, which is an extremely unstable process and is oftentimes avoided by pediatricians. This project will develop a novel, single-handed, integrated, and ergonomic device that can perform tympanocentesis with existing disposable materials commonly found at the doctor’s office.

Vietnam Tooth Project

Despite decades of child nutrition initiatives, the rates of malnutrition throughout the developing world have remained high, and there is a need to explore new strategies to address this problem. Among the strategies to reduce malnutrition, there has been little exploration of the role of severe tooth decay—which is an infectious disease and the most prevalent chronic disease worldwide, currently affecting 50-95% of young children in developing countries. Over the past 2 decades, with rapid modernization and increased marketing and consumption of non-nutritious processed foods such as candy and soda, Vietnam and other developing countries face serious emerging risks to children’s oral health and nutrition. This Big Ideas project aims to solve two global health epidemics—severe early childhood tooth decay and malnutrition—using simple, low-cost interventions: fluoride dental varnish, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and oral health/nutrition education to improve the health and well-being of children in areas that currently lack access to these resources.

Developing a Portable Method to Predict Dengue Virus Infection

Dengue virus causes the most common mosquito-borne viral disease affecting humans, with 3 billion people at risk for infection and an estimated 50 million cases each year. The goal of this project is to prevent severe illness and death from dengue through the use of a portable method in the field to identify the most at-risk patients. The first part of the project will develop risk scores to predict which patients presenting with fever in dengue-endemic areas are infected with dengue virus and of those infected, who will progress to develop severe dengue. In order for the risk scores to be used effectively in the field, the project team will also develop a mobile application for the iPhone that will enable any health professional to instantly calculate a patient’s risk score. The iPhone risk score application will enable physicians to distinguish dengue cases from cases of other illnesses that cause fever, as well as mild dengue cases from severe dengue cases, so they can provide patients with the appropriate medical care sooner. Additionally, it will help physicians prioritize the treatment of dengue cases in lowresource settings, where medical care and supplies are limited.

Examining levels of estriol and seroprevalence of Hepatitis E virus during pregnancy in India

In Northern India, nearly 60% of viral hepatitis in pregnant women is attributed to hepatitis E infection (HEV). Given the growing rates of HEV in South Asia and the hypothesis that levels of hormones may affect disease severity in pregnant women with HEV, this study proposes a cross-sectional approach to examine estriol levels and seroprevalence of anti-HEV (IgG and IgM) in village dwellers in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Long-term impacts of early childhood de-worming

Parasitic worms infect over 1 billion people in the developing world today, yet the treatments are inexpensive. For people infected with worms, taking these medications can improve school attendance and performance, but little is known about the long-term gain from de-worming treatment early in life. In my study this summer, I aim to collect data to answer exactly that question, in the context of de-worming interventions that took place in East Africa from 1998-2001.

Development of a simple prognostic test for rheumatic heart disease

We aim to develop a simple prognostic tool for rheumatic heart disease. In the first phase of the project we aim to identify a set of
peptides that induce a pro-inflammatory cytokine response from T cells isolated from rheumatic heart disease patients in Salvador, Brazil. The development of a prognostic tool which is inexpensive, simple and portable will help neglected populations get the appropriate treatment and care necessary to prevent severe outcomes from this preventable and neglected disease.