Thermal images on Smartphones to diagnose bacterial neonatal pneumonia in Pakistan

Massachusetts General Hospital
Organization Location: 
Boston, MA, USA

Our objective is to develop a low-cost Smartphone attachment and application to diagnose and treat bacterial neonatal pneumonia in Pakistan. Currently, serious bacterial infection – pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis – results in preventable deaths of 700,000 neonates every year, 99% dying in resource limited settings such as Pakistan. Signs of serious infection in young babies are difficult to recognize. Diagnostic tests and chest X-rays are rarely available outside tertiary care hospitals. The proposed device has the potential to identify and treat bacterial pneumonia quickly and decrease mortality. Our technology is an attachment that snaps on to a Smartphone and acquires, then displays a thermal image of a neonate’s lungs. An application (app) will calculate the chance a neonate has bacterial pneumonia, based on the presence of “hot spots” or temperature differences which represent the increased blood flow/inflammation that occurs with bacterial pneumonia. The app will produce a read-out recommending treatment with antibiotics if the thermal image is consistent with bacterial pneumonia. The attachment and app will work with most Smartphones that are increasingly available globally and will be powered by the Smartphone’s battery. It will take minutes to acquire and process the images. No specialized equipment or technical expertise by the user will be needed. The device is non-invasive, low risk, easy to use and incurs a one-time (not per test) expense which is minimal compared to X-rays. Thermal imaging on Smartphones could scale to first level facilities worldwide for pneumonia and other bacterial infections, even outside the neonatal period.

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