New Interactive Map Could Help TB Diagnostics

A new database could make TB diagnostics more efficient

1 min read
New Interactive Map Could Help TB Diagnostics

Tuberculosis is notoriously difficult to diagnose, so researchers are always looking for ways to make the detection process more efficient. One problem that clinicians have struggled with is false positives on the commonly-used TB skin test that can occur in people who were vaccinated against TB as children.

Not all countries use the TB vaccine--the US and Canada, for example, have never used it nationwide--but plenty of others do, and patients often don't remember which vaccines they've had. Now researchers at McGill University in Montreal have created an interactive map that merges disease statistics with TB vaccine policies from 180 countries. The goal is to help ease clinicians' confusion over whether a patient might have been exposed to the vaccine.

Interactive maps have become a popular way to display data in the infectious disease field. The World Health Organization has developed several maps, including one that international travelers can use to determine malaria and rabies risk, and Google Flu Trends helped clinicians and patients keep track of the H1N1 epidemic in 2009. But few have taken the extra step of incorporating policy data.

In the case of the TB vaccine map, adding the policy data was essential because there were no other databases clinicians could turn to for that information. Indeed, the McGill researchers wound up collecting most of the policy data first-hand through surveys and literature searches.

The next challenge for the McGill team will be to enhance the map with country-specific data on other diseases--mainly HIV--that affect TB diagnostics and response to the TB vaccine. The project is described in detail in an article published in PLoS Medicine last month.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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