Drone therapy for tuberculosis diagnosis in Nepal’s remote and hard to reach mountains has won at the 2020 International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) Sustainability Awards. Drone Optimised Therapy System (DrOTS) by Nepal Flying Labs links rural health posts with high-end diagnostic tools via drones to improve the accessibility of tuberculosis diagnostic tests. Under DrOTS, drones fly from a central district hospital to health posts in the mountains to collect sputum samples and deliver both diagnoses and treatment to patients living in up-country villages. The samples are tested using a high-end GenExpert kit. If they are positive, patients are given DOTS (directly observed treatment short course) treatment using smart pillboxes, which keep electronic records of whether or not patients have taken the antibiotics regularly.
The goal of this project is to assist Nepal’s Ministry of Health in generating data on tuberculosis and support it in its efforts to reduce the prevalence of the infection. The DrOTS test flight was conducted successfully in Piuthan district in western Nepal last year. Since then, over 106 flights have been carried out, collecting and delivering more than 742 sputum samples, with a result of 26 positive cases from eight remote health facilities. The technology has also been used for TB control in Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea.
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