‘Nigeria ranks highest in Africa with tuberculosis, drug resistance cases’
Christopher Macek is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SystemOne, a health technology company creating tools for disease diagnosis and intelligence for rapid detection and control. SystemOne platforms – GxAlert and Aspect connects over 2000 diagnostic devices in 40 countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan and Myanmar transmitting diagnostic results, device performance and aggregated disease information to clinicians, healthcare ministries and patients around the world in real-time. He spoke to IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on their activities with the Nigerian Ministry of Health using the software platform for tuberculosis diagnosis and control.
Tell us about the technology that has been invented by your company?
SystemOne seeks to make health diagnostic more accessible and results easier to interpret. We approach disease diagnoses from an internet perspective and believe that the more diagnostic machines become like smart television, home lights, etc., the more they can connect with the internet and help in more efficient diagnoses of diseases. We created software platforms that help in diagnoses of tuberculosis. In Nigeria, there are about 400 diagnostic machines across the country that detect tuberculosis and these machines are connected to the Internet, so our software platforms can automatically transmit diagnostic results to a central server in Abuja. Our system is for any kind of disease but in Nigeria, the focus has been so far on tuberculosis.
Why did you come to Nigeria?
Six years ago, we started a relationship with the Nigerian health ministry, working with the National Coordinator for Tuberculosis. We pitched in the idea of connecting diagnostic machines in the country, which was accepted and we started a project that has grown since then. Nigeria now has been the longest standing country with the largest network of machines and the most mature use of the system. This is now taking it to the next level of activating the system. In the past, when a patient gives the sample of the sputum; the sputum has to travel by a motorbike to the laboratory before they are able to get their result back. We are trying to make that more efficient and help the program improve its detection of people with TB and verify the treatment.
What has been the impact so far in the last six years?
We have connected the entire diagnostic machine and we have in real time all of their positive TB diagnoses and particularly the drug-resistant TB diagnoses. We have now linked with treatment system to make sure we can measure how many of the people who are detected positive end up on treatment, because there can be gaps in that. Many people go undetected, even for those that are tested, not all are put on appropriate treatment. We have had some improvement in the ability to get people who are detected onto treatment with our software system.
How popular has this initiative been in Nigeria?
We are working mostly in the labs where the gene experts are, and there are 400 of those places across the country. When the result comes into those machines, which are received in the central server in Abuja, the responses are sent to the Ministry of Health and state coordinators of the TB programme. Our platform is designed basically to move diagnostic results of any kind of disease to try to improve the treatment of patients based on these diagnoses.
So far, has there been any reduction in the TB cases?
I don’t think there has been a reduction in the cases yet, but for the cases that have been detected, there’s an improvement on getting people on treatment and reduction in deaths when you get on the right treatment faster. Now with this diagnostic machine and the connection to the system, we can get the drug-resistant cases immediately and put out a different treatment that is better and monitor them closely to ensure that they are progressing in their treatment. The world, in general, has had a hard time detecting these TB cases where people with TB don’t know they have the disease and they go around still infecting more people. The drug resistance is rising amongst these cases of TB all over the world. I think Nigeria is the number one country in Africa with the highest TB and drug resistance TB rates. There is a lot of effort going on in the Ministry of Health in Nigeria and support from other partners worldwide in trying to eliminate this TB once and for all. So we are part of that larger effort.
What other diseases are you looking at aside tuberculosis?
In the developing world countries we have diagnosed Ebola, Hepatitis C, TB and HIV, these are the main ones that we have focused on so far. We are looking to raise some money as a company and we connected with a Nigerian investment group; EchoVC. They helped us raise $4million as part of an investment in our company to continue this work helping the government fight infectious diseases. We continue to expand our technology and we are trying to bring a kind of app mentality to the work because there are so many things that people do with their phone now, which is a smarter way to keep track with the patients.
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