Global Laboratories

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Mobile Health and Diagnostics

Dr. Mehta is the co-inventor of the Cornell Nutriphone, a smartphone platform for real-time quantitative determination of biomarkers of nutritional status, along with David Erickson. The group now has a working prototype for measuring vitamins D and B12 status from a single drop of blood and have published a couple of papers with support from the National Science Foundation and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. Current plans are to expand the platform to detect iron deficiency, vitamin A status, and inflammatory biomarkers with additional support from the Micronutrient Initiative and the Thrasher Research Fund. 

We have also used this technology to detect acute febrile illnesses such as Dengue virus infection and are planning to build upon this technology to detect other diseases. The National Institutes of Health recently awarded us an R01 grant for expansion of our technology to six different infections, the FeverPhone. We also have two major projects in the mHealth space - ConnEDCt, a database solution for collecting data on tablets and smartphones in resource-limited settings with inconsistent internet; and a SMS-based adherence improvement project for patients with tuberculosis at our field site in India. 

More details on our technology related projects can be found at insight.cornell.edu

Biofortification

Biofortification is the process of increasing the micronutrient levels in crops through breeding. Recent advancements in this technology can improve the content of several nutrients, particularly vitamin A, iron, and zinc by several-fold, compared to conventional crops. We are examining the efficacy of biofortification as a sustainable agriculture-based nutritional intervention to improve health status in two large randomized trials in the urban slums of Mumbai with support from HarvestPlus/International Food Policy Research Institute. 

The first trial focuses on children 12-18 months of age and a high iron- and zinc-variety of pearl millet. This feeding trial will continue for 9 months and examine the impact of biofortified pearl millet-based complementary food on iron and zinc status, growth, and immune and cognitive function. The second one expands the crop portfolio to include orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, wheat, and lentils, in addition to pearl millet to deliver 50-70% of the estimated average requirements for vitamin A, iron, and zinc to breastfeeding mothers and their 6-12 months old infants. 

More details on both these projects is at clinicaltrials.gov - http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02233764 and http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02648893 

Infectious Diseases

Dr. Mehta's earlier  research has highlighted the potential role of vitamin D as a modifiable risk factor for slowing disease progression and disease severity both in the context of HIV and Tuberculosis. Building upon this work, Dr. Mehta is currently the principal investigator on a trial of vitamin D supplementation in patients with tuberculosis and those with HIV co-infection. The major outcomes of interest, in addition to treatment response, include immune competence and effect on vitamin D status. In another study, the group is collaborating with the National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad, India to examine the association of vitamin D with immune activation in hospitalized children. In Kenya, the research group is focusing on shedding more light on the relationship of vitamin D status with vaccine responses among infants. 

In recent work, we have also highlighted how the dual epidemic of diabetes and TB is posing a major challenge for high-burden settings such as India. Even at our field site, patients with TB who also have diabetes have a three-fold higher risk of having drug resistance to the first line TB treatment. Further, current recommendations for screening for diabetes or prediabetes will miss nearly 90% of those at risk. The research group is also helping setup active surveillance systems for infectious diseases such as Dengue and Tuberculosis in Ecuador and India to facilitate early detection and triage/referral of various illnesses, interrupt transmission cycles, and characterize the background population for future intervention, efficacy, and effectiveness studies. 

More details on the vitamin D supplementation trial is at https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01992263