Posts Tagged ‘XoutTB’

Photo credit: Economist

Photo credit: Economist

I love free stuff. Who doesn’t? Even if I know I’m never gonna wear that XXL fluorescent green t-shirt, I’ll still take it. And if it’s something I actually can use (free iPod, anyone?)… well, all the better. I may even do something slightly uncharacteristic — say, sing in public — if the reward is good enough.

This is the thinking the folks at MIT’s famed D-Lab (Development Lab) — specifically, at Innovations in International Health — employed when they devised “X out TB. ” They rightly identified lack of patient compliance as one of the biggest obstacles to making tuberculosis treatment effective. Basically, patients need to take their daily course for 6 months in order to prevent nasty drug resistance and relapse. The problem is, people often don’t like taking their medicine, even if there’s a spoonful of sugar involved. Most TB symptoms disappear after month 2-ish, and the medicine can cause unpleasant side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and orange-colored urine.

According to this week’s Economist, MIT’s researchers used the weird orange pee phenomenon to their advantage. They created a device that changes color only if the urine shows traces of certain chemicals (the same ones that make it orange in the first place). And if it does, magic happens: a code appears that the patient can type into their cell phones, to avail of free minutes! Way cooler than anything Mary Poppins could ever offer.

The team is currently working on making the reward applicable to a wider audience (e.g., many women in Pakistan do not use mobile phones, and thus may be better incentivized by free food). I’m pretty impressed, though. If the X out TB team can make this financially sustainable, they could change the face of TB treatment forever.


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