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Infosys Awardee IIT Professor Brings Cost-Effective Diagnostic Technologies for Remote, Resource-Constrained Areas

IIT Kharagpur professor Suman Chakraborty, who recently received the Infosys award, is assisting community health workers in providing healthcare support along with his group

Ayushi Sikarwar
Dr Suman Chakraborty
Dr Suman Chakraborty with his group

IIT Kharagpur professor Suman Chakraborty, who recently received the Infosys award, is assisting community health workers in providing healthcare support along with his group; and the deadly coronavirus pandemic has specifically sparked their initiative.

The resource-intensive RT-PCR for diagnosing infectious diseases has been replaced by COVIRAP, a Nucleic-Acid Based Rapid Diagnostic Test that they have created. The technology has also been shared with many businesses and organizations. Without modifying the hardware, it can be utilized to identify any infectious disease by being appropriately customized and pre-programmed in accordance with the particular test procedure.

Other tech-alternatives developed by Dr Chakraborty and his team in order to aid the last-mile populations:

1. Diagnostics with Finger-Prick Blood on Paper Strip: A smartphone-based programme can quantitatively evaluate plasma glucose, hemoglobin, creatinine, and lipid profile from finger-prick blood collected on a paper-strip using an ultra-cheap, quick point-of-care device. The paper strip communicates with a handheld device to obtain the test results, just the way a credit card does with a card reader. At the local level, this can be utilized for mass screening of a number of non-communicable diseases.

2. Low-cost portable hand-held imaging device for early screening of oral cancer: The group has created a system based on observed variations in the tissue's blood flow rate via thermal imaging and analytics. It doesn't need any special clinical equipment. This portable equipment can be used to classify the stages of oral cancer and assess early risk. This technique can also be applied to other types of cancer. The device has entered field trial mode after passing the Phase I clinical study.

3. Portable spinning disc to test body fluid-based diagnostic parameters from a single drop: It was created and tested to measure Complete Blood Count (CBC) using this device. The test findings are read out using an electrochemical sensor that has been integrated. It is intended to take the place of the lab centrifuge for conducting diagnostic tests.

4. Folded paper-kit for evaluating antibiotic resistance: By observing the color changes at certain test-spots on the kit, the user can determine whether bacteria are susceptible to a particular medication. In this method, a suggestion on the effectiveness of particular medications for eliminating the germs may be made in 3–4 hours, supporting fast clinical decision-making that could save lives.

5. A reagent-free anemia detection technology: They have created harnesses based on the observation that when blood spreads over a moist paper strip, it generates distinctive patterns. When evaluated using a specially developed image-analytics app, the pattern contains the hallmark of the red blood cell contents in such a way that those for anemic and normal patients may be categorized and perceived to be drastically different. By doing this, at-risk individuals who require an urgent blood transfusion or other life-saving interventions can be rapidly identified.

Professor Chakraborty, a J.C. Bose National Fellow of the Department of Science and Technology's (DST), an attached institute of Science and Engineering Research Broad (SERB), trained a large number of rural women to serve as an intermediary between the patient and the doctor, with the help of newly developed inexpensive diagnostic technologies, enabling sustainable livelihood in the process.

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