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Smart software helps fight tuberculosis in Ghana

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The ability to detect tuberculosis (TB) faster could save lives in Ghana. Dutch companies have helped develop smart software to do just that. This was made possible by funding from the Facility for Infrastructure Development programme (ORIO); a scheme carried out by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

It is estimated that the actual number of people suffering from TB in Ghana is 4 times higher than the official figures from the World Health Organisation. While TB can be cured, detecting the disease takes time and money.

Analysing an X-ray in 30 seconds

Delft Imaging Systems (DIS) and Oldelft Benelux B.V. wanted to help out in this area. With the help of ORIO funding, they delivered 52 portable X-ray systems equipped with smart software.

Their software can analyse an X-ray within 30 seconds and report on whether there is a reason to suspect a TB infection. After that, the data is sent directly to a central server in Ghana’s capital, Accra. Radiologists from all around the country are then able to request and evaluate the resulting X-ray images and test results.

The equipment also helps doctors to evaluate broken bones and other injuries better. That makes this the one of the largest e-health projects in Africa.

Training doctors and technicians

Over the past few years, DIS has trained local doctors and technicians to use the equipment. The company has taught them how to use the X-ray systems to diagnose patients. Also, DIS has trained over 400 people to become maintenance engineers, X-ray lab technicians, doctors and doctor’s assistants.

DIS CEO Guido Geerts is proud that his company is helping Ghana detect TB quickly and cheaply – and by doing so, lowering the number of fatalities. He says that over 60,000 people have been checked for TB so far and that the costs of detection are much lower than before. Mr Geerts adds, “Of course, taking part in a financing programme like this can be quite time-consuming for SME owners like me. But the rewards speak for themselves.”

Helping detect the coronavirus

The software is now helping detect the coronavirus in Ghana. DIS developed an algorithm for this, together with the Bernhoven Hospital in Uden and the Jeroen Bosch Hospital in Den Bosch. This was done with support from the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF).

The company added this algorithm to the portable X-ray systems in Ghana. Mr Geerts, “This will make it possible to prevent a major outbreak of the coronavirus in Ghana.”

€6.6 million funding from the ORIO programme

The project came about through ORIO funding provided to Ghana. Acting as the project administrator, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency used the ORIO programme to provide some €6.6 million in funding. This was 35% of the total costs of €18.8 million. The remaining sum was financed with a loan insured by Atradius. The ORIO programme is no longer accepting new applications. The DRIVE scheme and the Develop2Build programme follow on from the ORIO programme.

Learn more about fighting TB and COVID-19

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