Sometimes low-tech is better than high-tech. We’ll look at one of those times. This week on Engineering Works!
One of the places low-tech works better than high tech is when we try to take medicine to developing countries. Especially for things like testing for tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis – TB – is pretty rare in developed countries, but it’s everywhere in the developing world. Almost nine-million people contracted TB in 2010, and almost one-and-a-half-million died. That’s about four-thousand people every minute. Worldwide, only HIV AIDS kills more people.
Testing for TB is hard to do in places away from good laboratories. You have to collect samples of sputum, or spit, and ship them to a central laboratory. In the lab, the samples had to be cleaned and processed and examined through a microscope to see if the bacterium that causes TB is there. The bacterium is hard to pick out and the tests often give inaccurate results.
Now, researchers have come up with a new test that doesn’t need microscopes. And you don’t have to ship the samples away. You only need a container that’s dark inside – think cardboard box – an LED light source, and some simple filters. The researchers figured out a way to get chemical structures in sputum to fluoresce, or glow, when the T-B bacterium is there. And – only – when it’s there.
It’s quick, easy to use and gives results right there.
We’re done right now, and we’re heading home. See you next time.
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Start the discussion: We spend so much time looking for high-tech solutions to problems that we often miss low-tech solutions to problems that high technology can’t get to. There must be other low-tech solutions out there. What are some?