CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Tuberculosis, now largely controlled in the industrialized world, remains a stubbornly persistent killer in most of Africa, as well as parts of Asia and South America. The spread of multidrug-resistant strains of TB has slowed progress against the devastating disease, which is estimated to strike more than 10 million people annually. Now a modified soft-drink cooler, developed by researchers at MIT's D-Lab, could make a dent in the disease's impact.
There are two big issues that physicians confront in trying to tackle drug-resistant TB strains in developing countries. First, the drugs used to treat the disease, which require several doses per day over a course of 18 months, must be kept at a controlled low temperature in places where the availability of electricity is sparse and unreliable. And second, the drugs must be taken regularly, requiring continuous monitoring by health care workers.
Both issues could potentially be addressed by the cooler developed by researchers in the Little Devices Lab, a team of researchers within D-Lab who work to develop low-cost solutions to pressing medical needs.
D-Lab is a program of classes, workshops and labs at MIT, launched a decade ago by senior lecturer Amy Smith. The program now includes 13 classes on topics in health, mobility and energy, and is devoted to developing appropriate solutions to problems facing low-income people and communities around the world.
Jos Gmez-Mrquez, the D-Lab instructor who runs the Little Devices group, says the team's breadbox-sized cooler was adapted from one designed to keep soft drinks cool. Dubbed "CoolComply," it can run on either plug-in power or solar cells, and contains circuitry to monitor the temperature inside and transmit an alarm if it rises too high. (Higher temperatures cause a gas to be released inside the medicine packets, which can make patients violently ill.)
In addition, to track compliance, each cooler r
|Contact: Caroline McCall|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology