Company Receives Grant to Create Diagnostic Tools for Neglected Tropical Diseases


With limited health care infrastructure and large swaths of remote areas, developing countries face difficulties in medical management with these viruses and parasitic diseases.

In the developing world, medical care can be especially challenging. Living in remote areas combined with a climate that can be rife with zoonotic and vector-borne, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) can make it extremely difficult to get the proper care.

For example, Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. According to the World Health Organization, the disease affects 240 million people worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports this disease is second only to malaria as the most devastating parasitic disease. Although there is a treatment for it, people get repeatedly infected.

Dengue is another example of a disease that affects millions, yet does not have any treatments or prophylactic vaccines for them.

In addition to these NTDs, these underserved areas may have limited medical personnel to diagnose and treat patients. Hoping to bridge these aforementioned shortfalls in clinical care, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation looks to fund companies to help developing countries get better health care.

One company, VisualDx, was just awarded a grant from the foundation to develop diagnostic tools for surveillance, detection, and triage of and other rare infectious diseases in India and Nigeria.

“The public health needs of many rural and underserved areas often go unmet from provider and doctor shortages, and limited access to diagnostics, assistive technology, education, and training,” said Wendemagegn Enbiale, MD, MPH, PhD, Global Health Information Officer of VisualDx, said in a statement.

The company has a diagnostic clinical decision support system that has become the standard medical professional resource at more than 50% of US medical schools and more than 2300 hospitals and clinics worldwide. VisualDx combines problem oriented clinical search with a curated medical image library, plus medical knowledge from experts and sophisticated machine learning algorithms to help with differential diagnosis, variation, treatment, and patient communication.

As part of the initiative, VisualDx will support national public health efforts in India and Nigeria by developing country-specific logic for its decision-support platform to enhance surveillance, detection, and triage of NTDs and other rare infectious diseases. 

The company’s application combines AI/ML image analysis with structured clinical data, information, and questions to educate providers about the presentation and management of NTDs and other similar diseases, and can be tailored to meet the experience level of various users, from community health workers to physicians. It also offers robust tracking and reporting capabilities to study cases, differentials, and outcomes across each country.

“Advances in modern medicine and technology have made it possible to deliver equitable, high-quality information for all patients, regardless of where they live or seek medical attention. With this partnership, we are developing decision support tools to assist primary healthcare providers working in low-resource settings,” Enbiale said.

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