The CHPC is working with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) researchers to store cardiac screenings conducted on children onto a data portal developed as part of the Data Intensive Research Infrastructure of South Africa (Dirisa).
At the beginning of the 20th century, RHD was a huge public health burden worldwide. Until the 1960s, it remained a leading cause of death in children. Despite dramatic decreases in the developed world, this disease still reigns rampant in the developing world. Estimates report as much as 74 million people affected with 1.4 million deaths attributable to rheumatic fever or RHD each year, almost all of which are occurring in developing countries. These numbers demand a new approach to this entirely preventable disease.
In the period 2008 to 2011, 2 720 asymptomatic school children at Grades 1 to 12 (6 to 18 year olds) underwent an echocardiogram by a trained technologist on a customised mobile vehicle in Cape Town. A series of echocardiographic screening studies of school children in affected countries has led to the recommendation to embrace portable echocardiography as a method for screening. However, the relatively high costs hamper the adoption of this screening modality on a large scale in developing countries. A particular need has been the technology around uploading of screening echoes to be read and reviewed on a central platform by a qualified reader and facilitating data sharing within multicenter collaborations.
Through Dirisa, researchers like Dr Liesl Zühlke, paediatric cardiologist at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital and an honorary senior lecturer at University of Cape Town, have been working with CHPC researcher, Sebastian Wyngaard to upload echocardiograms to a customised open access platform that can be manipulated in order to view remotely, using minimal bandwidth and allowing for remote assessment. It is envisaged that this platform will be further developed for other medical-related projects, one of which involves eight African sites, thus demonstrating how high performance computing can serve local and international communities in need.