Bringing HIV Labs by Backpack to Rural Africa

Diagnostic medicine goes mobile in Africa, thanks to new microfluidic tools

6 min read
Illustration: Matthew Hollister
Illustration: Matthew Hollister

When John Barber, a project manager at Daktari Diagnostics, sought to test his company’s instrument, he went to the type of place where the technology might have the most impact: a small fishing village on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda. He awoke at dawn on a November morning in 2013, tossed a few Daktari devices into a backpack, and, together with a team of HIV-treatment specialists, drove 2 hours to the village of Kasensero, where the first Ugandan case of HIV was reported more than 30 years ago. Driving a Jeep along dirt roads with more cows than traffic, “we were off the grid,” Barber recalls.

Barber and his team showed up at 8 a.m. and found about 20 people already waiting for them. Dozens more arrived within the hour. An estimated 43 percent of people in Kasensero are HIV-positive, and these patients wanted to know whether the virus had started to damage their immune systems. The medical team was there to check the patients’ CD4 counts, a measure of immune cells that indicates how well the body can stave off opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis. Based on test results, some people would need to start antiretroviral therapy. Others might need their medications adjusted.

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Video Friday: Such a Showoff

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

2 min read
An animated gif showing a humanoid robot stumble and recover after doing a backflip

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

IEEE RO-MAN 2023: 28–31 August 2023, BUSAN, KOREA
RoboCup 2023: 4–10 July 2023, BORDEAUX, FRANCE
CLAWAR 2023: 2–4 October 2023, FLORIANOPOLIS, BRAZIL
RSS 2023: 10–14 July 2023, DAEGU, KOREA
ICRA 2023: 29 May–2 June 2023, LONDON
Robotics Summit & Expo: 10–11 May 2023, BOSTON

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Portable Life-Support Device Provides Critical Care in Conflict and Disaster Zones

The compact unit is equipped with an innovative ventilator that recovers oxygen exhaled by the patient

5 min read
A soldier carrying a MOVES SLC portable life support unit walks over to an injured person on the ground.

Thornhill Medical's mobile life-support device, called MOVES SLC, has been used by military medical teams for five years. The unit can be slung across the shoulder and includes a circle-circuit ventilator and oxygen concentrator that eliminate the need to carry heavy, dangerous high pressure O2 cylinders.

Thornhill Medical

This is a sponsored article brought to you by LEMO.

A bomb explodes — medical devices set to action.

It is only in war that both sides of human ingenuity coexist so brutally. On the one side, it innovates to wound and kill, on the other it heals and saves lives. Side by side, but viscerally opposed.

Dr. Joe Fisher is devoted to the light side of human ingenuity, medicine. His research at Toronto’s University Health Network has made major breakthroughs in understanding the absorption and use of oxygen by the body. Then, based on the results, he developed new, highly efficient methods of delivering oxygen to patients.

In 2004, together with other physicians and engineers, he created a company to develop solutions based on his innovations. He named it after the Toronto neighborhood where he still lives — Thornhill Medical.

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