Developing novel non-invasive methods to assess iron and zinc deficiency

Project leader: Dr Vinet Coetzee

Prevalence of nutritional deficiencies is very high in Africa. Many of these are undetected. Dr Vinet Coetzee (a Geneticist) and her team of nutritionists and computer science experts are developing rapid and inexpensive digitised techniques for non-invasive testing of iron and zinc deficiencies. These techniques use machine learning based on visual observation and physical characteristics to identify micronutrient deficiency. The work is being extended to investigate the detection of beta-carotenoids. This frontier science will provide a first-line measure in identifying nutritional deficiency. Dr Coetzee plans to combine this work with other work on the rapid and non-invasive multiple-diagnosis of non-communicable diseases.

The social impact potential speaks for itself – for those afraid of needles, the testing will eliminate the need for invasive testing. The benefits of this rapid tool are multiple, including overcoming the current constraints related to the lack of human capacity, equipment and inhibitive costs associated with making essential medical diagnostics available to everyone. 

The IRT funds enabled the extension of current frontier research with high social benefits to be extended to nutritional deficiencies. The core work is funded by TIA in partnership with colleagues at the Philipps University of Myburg in Germany.

- Author IFNuW

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