Mobile Innovation: XoutTB

June 11, 2009

Researchers at MIT have developed a mobile phone based incentive scheme for TB patients to keep taking their pills .. the system, called XoutTB is based around stamp-sized patches, much like litmus paper (see photo below), that change colour when exposed to the urine of people with traces of medicine in their systems. This change in colour reveals a code that a patient can send by text-message to a number which rewards the person with free airtime minutes on his/her mobile phone.

This type of a daily incentive is much needed.. TB patients must take pills for half a year if they are to eliminate the bacteria that cause the infection and combat the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains. But the actual symptoms of infection tend to go away after just two months of taking the medicine, so the incentive to carry on is negligible. Worse, the drugs themselves produce unpleasant symptoms, including nausea, diarrhoea, headaches and insomnia, which also makes the full 6 month period difficult to complete.

Piloting is still underway (in Pakistan), but so far XoutTB has proven very popular, providing hope for treatment of other diseases that require the taking of daily pills (like anti-retrovirals combating AIDS).