Capturing an image for the Leprosy Intelligent Image Atlas at Fiocruz in Brazil
The Novartis Foundation and Microsoft are partnering to develop a proof-of-concept artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled digital health tool and a Leprosy Intelligent Image Atlas to aid in the early detection of leprosy.
Over 200,000 people are diagnosed with leprosy every year. Brazil, India, and Indonesia account for about 80% of new cases. If untreated, patients are left with lifelong disabilities and are often stigmatized in their societies.
As part of the collaboration, Microsoft and the Novartis Foundation will work with local investigators from Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) in Brazil to develop a protocol to examine anonymized images collected by Fiocruz. This will include a high-resolution image and metadata capture protocol to process the leprosy skin lesion images. The imagery and AI code will be publicly accessible at a later stage.
“We are about to reimagine the way we fight leprosy. Bundling expertise from the health and ICT sectors to pioneer innovative solutions such as this AI-enabled digital health tool is essential to ensure we continue making progress in leprosy elimination. Only early detection of leprosy and prompt treatment can interrupt transmission,” said Dr. Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation.
Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases known to man, but today an estimated 2-3 million people are still living with physical disability and stigmatization as a result of the disease. The disease often occurs in hard-to-reach communities with poor access to healthcare and where untreated patients continue to spread the infection. For the past decade, more than 200,000 people have been newly diagnosed with the disease every year – including thousands of children. This lack of progress partly results from dwindling attention from health services and a decrease in political will, funding and the absence of new tools to fight the disease. It demonstrates the urgent need for the global health community to join forces and unite our efforts to interrupt further spread of the disease.
Watch this short video about how Novartis and the Novartis Foundation are working to make leprosy history.
View this photo essay on The Guardian about tackling leprosy in the Philippines.