The concept of A-Patch is to design and demonstrate a patch that sense TB-specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are compounds that are released into the bloodstream by or as a result of infected cells and can be detected from air trapped above the skin (the “skin headspace”). Deviation from the healthy VOC range may indicate either infection or high infection risk, in which cases the autonomous wearable device can warn the user and recommend either follow-up testing or treatment. The patches can also be worn continuously for monitoring disease treatment and to ensure effective treatment. To enable extended usage periods, we will design the sensor array to be self-repairing if scratched or cut, and the device to be self-powered by harvesting energy from skin movement. We will also incorporate a secure transmission component to enable privacy-ensured diagnosis monitoring by physicians, national health systems and worldwide health organizations. A-Patch will thus enable not only adequate patient diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up, but also a continual screening of at-risk populations and real-time monitoring of epidemics, providing population-wide and location-based data for statistical analysis and data mining, and thereby facilitating in-depth epidemiological study. The success of A-Patch will be a launch pad for similar approaches to be used in the diagnosis and/or follow-up of other infectious as well as non-infectious diseases.
For detection purposes, only one measurement will be required. For monitoring over time (such as in the case of medical treatments) once/day is sufficient. The communication features of the A-Patch system will enable data transfer in local, regional, national, and international levels, expected to be a major epidemiological change in TB control. Eventually, within a few years of usage, a great amount of information (clinical information, lifestyle and other relevant data) will be collected and stored in a secure manner. This secure database will serve as an enormous in-silico potential for making new medical discoveries based on statistical analyses and data mining, allowing comparison of changes during a person’s life, and comparison of large groups of people with similar conditions. These abilities should provide additional insights into the general studies of disease initiation, progress, treatment efficacy enabling future medical breakthroughs. Data from initial positive detection and throughout the treatment period will be communicated to physicians, national health systems and worldwide health organizations mapping disease spread. Considering the complex legal, ethical, and regulatory issues, the A-Patch platform will be designed with expert guidance so that great care is taken to direct information flow in a way that protects the privacy of individuals, while at the same time protecting the health of all citizens.