It’s estimated that about half of all Africans own a cell phone. Yet, many of these cell phone owners lack access to proper medical services. One disease responsible for killing many Africans is tuberculous pericarditis, an aggressive type of TB affecting 2% of TB patients in which the lining of the heart becomes infected.
In developed countries this condition is rarely fatal because it can be diagnosed at a doctor’s with a simple stethoscope and quickly addressed. But in Africa, it is said that about 40% of people die post-diagnosis because they can’t get to a doctor in time.
Drawing inspiration from these statistics, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford have developed a new kind of stethoscope that uses the microphone input of a cell phone. The rudimentary stethoscope is basically a cell phone with an external microphone attached to the base of an egg-cup to focus and collect the sounds. The phonocardiograms recorded can be analyzed by a computer to filter out distortion and noise and process the signal to identify heart rate and abnormal heart sounds.
So far, the stethoscope has been tested with an iPhone 3G and a Nokia 3100 Classic. Surprisingly, the Nokia 3100 Classic outperformed a 3M Littmann Electronic Stethoscope in detecting heart rate. According to Oxford, an Android version of the phonocardiogram processing software is also in the works.
More information from the University of Oxford’s Science Blog: Mobile phones offer heart lifeline…