Utne Blogs > Science and Technology

Tagging Babies to Track Disease

by Elizabeth Ryan 

Tags: Science and Technology, pneumonia, vaccines, bracelets, Bloomberg School, Johns Hopkins Public Health, Elizabeth Ryan,

syringesA Bloomberg School study has doctors in Karachi tagging babies with traceable bracelets to help stem future deadly outbreaks of pneumonia in Pakistan’s children. Researchers are collecting data to convince Pakistan’s government to add a new vaccine for the disease, which kills 13 percent of children under five there.

The tracking devices are a key part of the Karachi Invasive Pneumococcal Disease Surveillance Project that started in late 2008 and will wrap up mid-year. There are 40 clinics involved in the study, in which doctors monitor babies from 6-weeks-old through 18-months-old for cases of pneumonia and transmit data to researchers to track.

“Threaded among the black beads of the study-issued bracelets that adorn more than 4,500 babies in a low-income Karachi neighborhood,” reports Johns Hopkins Public Health, “is a button-size radio frequency identification tag. The device can use radio waves to transmit real-time surveillance data via cell phones to a central computer server.”

The project’s director explains the impressive technology, noting that whether researchers are in Pakistan, Vancouver, or Baltimore they “can all look up on the website and see immediately that today 10 children enrolled in the study, there are five reported illnesses, they went to X or Y physician, and what happened.”  

Source: Johns Hopkins Public Health

Image by featherbacon, licensed under Creative Commons.