The biomedical smart jacket that diagnoses pneumonia using Bluetooth


Story highlights

The diagnoses is faster than a doctor

Pneumonia kills half a million children each year in sub-Saharan Africa

CNN —  

Getting a pneumonia diagnosis wrong can be fatal. As Ugandan inventor Brian Turyabagye knows all too well.

Turyabagye’s close friend and business partner, Olivia Koburongo, lost her grandmother to it; she’d visited several clinics which mistakenly diagnosed her with malaria. “At her deathbed, the prognosis reports indicated she actually died of pneumonia,” Turyabagye tells CNN.

Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar in Africa. “A misdiagnosis of malaria is really common,” Turyabagye says.

The problem is particularly acute with infants. According to UNICEF, pneumonia kills half a million children under five each year in sub-Saharan Africa.

In response, Turyabagye and Koburongo began formulating ideas about how to tackle the ongoing problem. They consulted medical experts to understand the specific symptoms of the disease.

Eventually, with the help of his tutor Mwikirize Cosmas at the University of Makerere in Uganda, Turyabagye and his team created Mama-Ope, a biomedical smart jacket that rapidly increases the accuracy and speed of diagnosing pneumonia.

How does it work?

Brian Turyabagye testing the biomedical smart jacket.
Courtesy: Brett Eloff
Brian Turyabagye testing the biomedical smart jacket.

Mama-Ope, or “Hope for the Mother” – so-called because of the 27,000 Ugandan children under five who die every year from pneumonia – is a jacket that measures body temperature, heart rate and lung condition.

The technology is similar to a stethoscope. It stretches across the whole chest and the side of a patient’s body. It surveys specific points on the lungs for symptoms of pneumonia, characterised by a swelling of the lungs caused by infection.

The jacket is connected to a mobile phone app via Bluetooth which sends, records and analyses the medical data, ready for a healthcare professional to make an informed diagnosis.

Turyabagye claims the jacket mitigates almost all human error and can diagnose pneumonia three to four times faster than a doctor.

Award-winning invention

Makerere University graduates Brian Turyabagye and Besufekad Shifferaw showing off the biomedical smart jacket.
H. Althumani/VOA
Makerere University graduates Brian Turyab