Verizon and UCSD partner in TB mobile phone project

The Verizon Foundation recently provided the University of California - San Diego School of Medicine with a $300,000 grant to help researchers scale-up a mobile phone-based tuberculosis project.

The support from Verizon will allow researchers to overcome the high costs of using mobile phone technology to monitor TB patients throughout their treatment.

Dr. Richard Garfein, a professor in the global public health division at the UC San Diego Department of Medicine, is leading the project, called "video directly observed therapy."

"Based on the results of a successful pilot study involving patients with tuberculosis in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, we plan to scale-up this technology so that tuberculosis care providers elsewhere can use the VDOT system," Garfein said.

Garfein said that he hopes the program can be used with TB patients across the United States and eventually in countries harder-hit by the contagious infection, such as India.

TB is considered one of the world's deadliest diseases. Experts believe it currently affects more than 11 million people worldwide. Each year there are 8.8 million new cases.

"TB can be cured with an antibiotic regimen," Garfein said. "But the biggest problem care givers face, especially in developing countries, is making sure patients are compliant with treatment that takes six months or longer to complete."