Author: Dr Neil Polwart
Areas, where lots of people congregate, offer the perfect breeding ground for norovirus. The quarantine of approx. 1,200 staff, days before the start of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games was just one high-profile case reported in 2018 (1).
Although it’s recognised as the ‘winter vomiting bug’, norovirus isn’t just a seasonal illness. It is not only confined to cruise ships – it’s one of the most common causes of infectious gastroenteritis in the UK(2), affecting schools, residential areas, nursing homes and hospitals all year round.
Norovirus is highly contagious and can be contracted through contaminated food, surfaces and people(3) . Coupled with the stubborn nature of the disease – norovirus can still be detected in a patient’s stool two weeks after recovery(3) – there is a necessity to develop rapid detection methods which bring cases quickly under control.
In the era of digital healthcare, how can the connected technologies support rapid detection? Evidence suggests that the mobile phone has already played a significant role in the track and trace of infectious diseases, like Ebola in West Africa(4). Within chronic conditions, patients displaying symptoms consistent with Crohn’s or Colitis disease, have supplemented smartphone readers(5) when using home test kits.
Whilst increasingly schools and tour operators have their own apps which enable messages to be pushed to users and help share critical information. The potential to harness the metadata from such apps is currently under-utilised – but as the BBC Pandemic App demonstrated(6), it’s possible to use such data for epidemiological prediction.
From swabbing surface areas, testing stool samples for those displaying norovirus symptoms (sickness, diarrhoea and vomiting) to tracking the spread of infection using geo-tracking, smartphone technology has the potential to enhance point of care testing and support decentralised healthcare – particularly as the cautionary measure is to avoid further human contact and self-quarantine.
Access to smartphone diagnostic readers on-board a cruise ship for example could enable at-risk groups to perform an accurate diagnosis, from an isolated environment, using a rapid test kit and their own mobile phone, with all the workflow support and traceable attributes normally only achieved in a sophisticated clinical laboratory.
NovarumTM DX has created a software solution that transforms a smartphone into a diagnostic test reader. The test is read using a mobile medical app which provides test results of lab-quality and in less time compared to conventional testing methods. By exploiting the intuitive user-experience on mobile devices, minimal end-user training is required. Mandatory instructions and timers are also built into the mobile app to ensure self-testing is performed correctly. The mobile phone is used to scan the test and the result is shared with healthcare professionals online, in exchange for medical advice and a treatment plan.
Technological advances are constantly offering novel ways of tackling diagnostic challenges that have confounded us for years. As global travel and events bring us ever closer together, no other technology has the widespread distribution and accessibility to revolutionise how we tackle infectious disease.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the company.
1. National Geographic (2018)https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/norovirus-outbreak-pyeongchang-south-korea-winter-olympic-games-spd/
2. NHS (2018) https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/norovirus-qa/
3. CDC (2018) https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/transmission.html
4. USAID (2014) Technical Brief https://www.msh.org/sites/msh.org/files/technology_and_ebola_response_in_west_africa_technical_brief_final.pdf
5. Novarum Case Study (2018) First Calprotectin Home test kit https://www.novarumdx.com/case-study/smartphone-calprotectin-home-test/
6. BBC Pandemic (2018) Contagion. The BBC Four Pandemic App. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3pYGfsq0NKB1bNkrggYJl4h/about-bbc-pandemic