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Mobiles for medicine

It’s hard to believe that the first mobile phone call was placed 40 years ago this week by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper. In the past four decades mobile phones have revolutionised business and daily life for billions of people.

But have mobiles revolutionised medical practice? While medical apps for smart phones are on the rise – there’s apps for diabetes management, baby heart rate monitoring and more – medicine on mobile phones has not been as prevalent, until now.

Rachel holding a mobile phone by White African

Mobile phone users in developing countries could one day use sensors developed by CSIRO to test for infectious diseases.

Australian science for mobile phone users in developing countries

Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, are developing an inexpensive mobile-phone based sensor to diagnose infectious diseases such as malaria in developing countries.

A range of sensors will be attached to the mobile device through what Dr Scott Martin, leader of CSIRO’s Medical Devices Stream, and his team call a smart cable, developed by The Nossal Institute for Global Health. Sensors are being developed for urine or breath analysis.

“The mobile phone would then receive the data through the smart cable, which would process some of the measurements, in order to give the user a diagnosis of whether they have the particular condition, be it an infectious disease or whatever, and then they would get an immediate result of whether they were suffering from that condition,” said Dr Martin in an interview with Glen Paul.

Once the results are in, the mobile phone user could be told to consult a doctor or receive a suggested treatment from the software.

“It may actually tell them what they have and then go ahead using technologies that The Nossal Institute already have for mobile phones in order to tailor a regime of treatment for that particular person. And that might take into account what’s available locally, but it also might take into account the size, the sex, and so forth of the person, and tailor the dosage particularly for them,” Dr Martin said in the interview.

The mobile phone may celebrating its 45th birthday before this technology is available.

“There’s a lot of work to do just to get the technology to a point of proof of concept, which we’re undergoing at the moment, and then we need to develop it into a fully fledged medical device which could then be sold. This typically takes a number of years, and I would be quite nervous about guessing a number of years on that, but I would say at least five years,” said Dr Martin.

Keep reading 

Feature image credit: “kiwanja_handsets_20” © 2007 kiwanja, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Inset image credit: “Rachel holding a mobile phone” © 2008 whiteafrican, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/


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Tags: CSIRO, developing countries, medicine, mobile phones, science

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