App offers fast method of tracing infectious diseases
Pilot study shows a novel contact tracing app could help protect groups at risk of catching and spreading infectious diseases in the Global South.
A digital contact tracing app can track and manage infectious disease spread among haulage drivers, a pilot study has shown.
Results indicate that the online tool was approximately 90 times faster than manual contact tracing methods for monitoring the spread of coronavirus.
The research team, led by the Roslin Institute, developed the app to trace Covid-19 cases in the haulage community, but its versatility offers solutions to monitor future outbreaks of any infectious disease, they say.
The contact tracing tool, named THEA-GS, is now available to use in the Global South.
It integrates information about disease cases pinpointed along national road infrastructure and generates community risk assessments based on transport networks, making it an effective tool for public health institutions around the world, the team suggests.
The app aims to better manage spread of infectious disease by haulage drivers, who are identified as a high-risk group for contracting and transmitting infection. Their frequent interactions with diverse populations and livestock potentially expose them to various illnesses, including those transmitted by animals.
The online tool’s ability to record timestamped locations within the road network make it effective in reducing the spread of infectious diseases and protecting the communities associated with them.
However, the pilot study also shed light on challenges faced during the app's adoption. Drivers' limited awareness of the app's purpose and its potential benefits for public health underscore the need for communication and education to foster trust and maximise acceptance in local communities.
This pilot study was carried out in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, Ugandan Ministry of Health, Makerere University in Uganda, and software developer Bodastage Solutions. The research was published in Frontiers in Digital Health, and funded by the National Institutes of Health Research (NIHR) and the Medical Research Council through the Global Efforts on Covid-19 Health Research (GECO).
By helping to curb the spread of infectious diseases among a high-risk population, the digital contact tracing tool THEA-GS has the potential to safeguard not only the health of the haulage drivers but also the communities they interact with throughout their journeys. This tool can also be adapted to track the movement of anything that can be linked to infectious disease and moves on any mode of transport.
** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **
Image credit Douglas Ssebaggala, Wikimedia Commons