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UC San Diego Professor Develops New Way To Monitor TB Patients

— There's a new way to make sure tuberculosis patients are taking their daily dose of medicine. Researchers at UC San Diego have developed a smartphone app that does the trick.

Aired 8/15/13 on KPBS News.

A smart phone app developed at UC San Diego offers a low-cost way to make sure that TB patients are following their treatment regimen.

A tuberculosis warning sign in Tijuana.
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Above: A tuberculosis warning sign in Tijuana.

The infectious disease can be cured with a six-month course of antibiotics but it's not easy getting patients to take their drugs for that long.

To make sure patients stay on track, public health agencies send workers out to watch them take their daily dose of medication. It's called Directly Observed Therapy, or DOT.

UC San Diego's Dr. Richard Garfein invented an application for smartphones that allows patients to video themselves taking their drugs. They then post the video on a secure server where public health workers can watch it.

Garfein was able to develop and test his smartphone-based method with help from San Diego County and the Verizon Foundation.

The video DOT will soon be tried out in New York, San Francisco and London.

Garfein hopes it will be a helpful tool in the fight against TB.

"By lowering the cost of delivering DOT using mobile phones, it lowers the threshold, so in fact, more patients could be put on DOT that currently are not being monitored at all," Garfein explained.

In 2011, TB killed 1.4 million people worldwide.

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