The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) has awarded €445,000 in funding to the Neosonics project, which aims to create a non-invasive screening device for infant meningitis and eventually implement this device in the Moroccan health system. The project is being led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a centre supported by ”la Caixa”, in collaboration with New Born Solutions, the Spanish manufacturer that developed the device, and Ibn Sina University Hospital in Rabat, one of Morocco’s top children’s hospitals. The prototype that will be used in Morocco was designed in close collaboration with Dr Luis Elvira of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), thanks to a Health Research Fund (FIS) project funded by the Carlos III Health Institute.
Meningitis is a highly lethal infectious disease that claimed nearly 300,000 lives in 2015. Even when it does not prove fatal, this disease can still have devastating consequences such as limb amputation, hearing loss, vision loss, cognitive impairment and even the development of epillepsy.
The classic method for diagnosing meningitis requires a lumbar puncture. Laboratory facilities are scarce in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in remote rural areas, and lumbar puncture requires the participation of specialised personnel. Consequently, the procedure is rarely performed in these areas and therefore meningitis is rarely diagnosed.
Neosonics is an inexpensive, portable, easy-to-use device the size of a wireless telephone It uses high-frequency ultrasound to non-invasively detect abnormal cell count in the cerebrospinal fluid, which raises clinical suspicion of meningitis in infants under 24 months of age, the population group most exposed and vulnerable to this disease. “This device provides an innovative solution for the non-invasive diagnosis of meningitis. This method is faster, less expensive and overcomes many of the limitations of the current standard technique—lumbar puncture—which involves a certain degree of risk and requires a laboratory equipped with specific technology that is often unavailable in low- and middle-income countries,” commented Quique Bassat, the principal investigator of the Neosonics project and an ICREA Research Professor at ISGlobal.
One of the project’s objectives is to make the human right to health a reality for all inhabitants of Morocco. “For children living in rural areas, mortality risk is twice as high as it is for children living in urban areas,” commented Javier Jiménez, CEO of New Born Solutions. “Neosonics can provide the Moroccan health system with a tool that will improve health care access for the entire population, in cities as well as in remote regions not served by the public health care network.”
“Thanks to this support from AECID, which extends Spanish funding of this highly innovative concept, ISGlobal will have the opportunity to develop a project that reiterates our commitment to developing health care in Morocco—which dates back more than two decades —with an innovative perspective and a focus on guiding and supporting the Moroccan Ministry of Health,” concluded Bassat.