Press Release: April 08, 2020
In the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic, UK company, Vestigo has launched a new website to promote its efforts to develop a digital tracing app called Dot2Dot and test the prototype within the next few weeks.
Dot2Dot will digitise the manual contact tracing procedures utilised by health professionals, making those processes more efficient and less costly by harnessing AI capabilities and social network tracing to maximise the effectiveness of the process. It will mean more contacts can be traced than through current manual practices, at pace and at a lower cost.
The digital contact tracing app, which is at development stage, will primarily be of use in the war against Tuberculosis, but could help health authorities with other infectious diseases.
Dot2Dot was inspired by the daughter of Faye Grundy, one of the founders of Vestigo who, as a result of failures of manual contact tracing, went on to develop tuberculosis meningitis. The TB also spread to other organs, causing permanent damage to her brain, lungs and eyes.
Faye said: “In March 2017, I took my 11-month-old daughter, Dottie, to her village GP. At that time, she was recovering from her meningitis vaccination and had an ear infection.
“At the same time, in the waiting room was a military person who had been triaged by his Army Barracks to the civilian GP practice due to suspected rat infestation at the barracks medical centre.
“It was confirmed post appointment that the soldier had highly infectious TB. Contact tracing was undertaken for his friends and family – of which it was identified he had infected 100%.
“However Public Health England’s manual practices failed to identify Dottie as a contact.
“Tragically Dottie went on to develop TB meningitis, pulmonary TB and ocular TB. She was critical on a ventilator in Intensive Care when she was diagnosed, having also developed hydrocephalus which required emergency neurosurgery and multiple subsequent neurosurgeries. She has miraculously survived but has lifelong injuries. As a family the impact is immeasurable.”
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB, currently infects one-quarter of the world's population, with a 5–15% lifetime risk of falling ill from the disease.
The symptoms of active TB disease are very similar to COVID-19 – amongst them, a cough and fever – which may be mild, leading to delays in seeking care, thereby spreading from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing. A person needs only to inhale a few of the bacterium to become infected.
Current contact tracing for the disease is conducted using paper-based questions to try and establish a history of movements. However, this process is flawed – paper records are error-prone, not centralised, and there is too much dependence on human interpretation.
Dot2Dot removes the need for paper-based questionnaires and digitises contact tracing to eliminate errors and make the whole process of infectious disease control much more efficient.
Martin Green, co-founder of Vestigo, said: “Digital contact tracing has the potential to revolutionise the process by which a health authority identifies people who might have been in contact with a person carrying an infectious disease.
“When combined with isolation of infected individuals, contact tracing can be very effective in containing and stopping a disease outbreak.”
Avoidable transmission of disease is the number one priority of public health officials and now governments globally.
Martin said: “The most effective way to delay the spread of an infectious disease is to apply accurate, effective and efficient contact tracing as soon as an initial index case is identified.
“The current models for contact tracing are antiquated and too subjective. As a result, practice is inconsistent and dependent on the competency of individual practitioners. Contacts are missed, often those who are the most vulnerable in society.
“The consequences of infectious disease outbreaks are significant both for public health at a macro and micro level, together with huge economic impact, again at both a macro and micro level. And this doesn’t begin to consider the individual human loss and devastation caused to families.”
He went on to say: “Dot2Dot has been designed primarily as a tool to help with manual contact tracing for TB, whereas a lot of the COVID 19 discussion is about population-level tracing.
“Having said that, we’re keen to help if the app can be successfully deployed in the context of the current COVID-19 epidemic.”