The Lindbergh Foundation Believes that Innovative Science and Technology Hold the Key to Addressing Humanity’s Environmental and Productivity Challenges

Benjamin Castaneda, Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, Lima Peru

“Developing Computerized Screening for Early Detection of Tuberculosis in Peru”

Category: Health: 2009

The World Health Organization declared tuberculosis (TB) to be a global emergency in 1993. Today, it is estimated that one-third of the world’s population is infected, nine million new cases are diagnosed and two million deaths occur from tuberculosis each year. This contagious disease spreads through the air like the common cold virus. The most common and transmissible form is pulmonary TB, which does not necessarily show symptoms. Left untreated, those with active TB can infect between 10 to 15 people every year. The most effective method to stop the TB epidemic is to isolate and treat infected patients before they spread the disease.

Diagnosis of TB in Peru, and most of the world, is currently based upon the Directly Observed Therapy Short-course strategy. Patients with clinical signs or those who have been exposed to the disease provide sputum samples that are stained and microscopically screened for acid-fast bacilli (AFB), an indicator of the infection. The number of readings done per day as well as the quality and accuracy of the reading is dependant upon a technician. In areas of highest incidence, detection is tediously slow by this method and limited resources for the training of laboratory staff, supervision and quality control procedures are challenges currently faced in Peru, and other developing countries.

Mr. Castaneda is developing stand-alone software to automate the visual search of AFB. Samples will be recorded using a digital camera and entered into the computer where the software will complete the screening and diagnosis. This use of computer software will promote an early and fast diagnosis of TB and improve the quality of the human environment in areas where TB is prevalent.

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Final Report

The spreading of Tuberculosis (TB) worldwide is worrisome. According to the World Health Organization, it killed an estimated 1.1 - 1.7 million people in 2008. During the same year, Peruvian authorities reported as many new cases per 100,000 inhabitants as were reported in India and various African countries. To control this epidemic, it is necessary to improve its diagnosis. We defined a new staining protocol, and acquired and annotated 24,900 images following our acquisition protocol. Initial results ... reported a performance of 94% in sensitivity, 76% in specificity, and 84% in accuracy.  This will improve the productivity of health workers who may spend more time attending patients. Also, clinicians may offer earlier diagnosis even in rural areas, leveling-off limitations based on expertise, time and equipment. Patients will obtain faster diagnosis and better monitoring of treatment. This work benefits the general population by improving the quality of their living environment while reducing the chances of transmission.

Read the Final Report