Using Mobile Technology to Eradicate Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is the 2nd greatest killer worldwide and infects over one-third of the world's population.  In 2012, 8.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis and 1.3 million died from tuberculosis.  Fortunately, tuberculosis is treatable but challenging due to the rigorous nature of the prescribed medication regimen. Fortunately Dr. Richard Garfein's research involves identifying risk factors to develop interventions to prevent infectious disease.  His development of a mobile phone based intervention improves patient adherence to anti-TB treatment.

  • "Video DOT" (VDOT) - is a pilot-tested system whereby patients use mobile phones to record and send videos of themselves taking their medications.  These are uploaded to a confidential database and remotely reviewed by healthcare professionals.

  • VDOT has been proven highly successful in our National Institutes of Health (NIH) endorsed experiments in San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico

  • We can reduce the global burden of TB by using VDOT we can treat more patients effectively

Dr. Richard Garfein's research show that many patients do not comply with the 6 month antibiotic-treatment plan requiring strict adherence to daily prescribed doses of medication.  His mobile technology, VDOT can treat more patients with TB effectively helping to eradicate the disease worldwide.


Dr. Garfein, PhD, MPH, is a Professor in the Division of Global Public Health, Department of Medicine at UCSD. He trained as an infectious disease epidemiologist, first earning an M.P.H. from the San Diego State University, School of Public Health in 1989 and then a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1997.

Between his graduate training and joining the UCSD faculty in 2005, Dr. Garfein served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer in the Division of Viral Hepatitis and a Senior Staff Epidemiologist in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

His research interests involve identifying risk factors for and developing interventions to prevent infectious diseases associated with substance abuse. His career in this area began with a seminal study showing that HCV infection occurs very soon after initiation of injection drug use, which led to development of behavioral interventions targeting young persons who inject drugs (PWID) for HIV and HCV prevention.

While at the CDC, he investigated outbreaks of hepatitis B and C virus infection and led observational and interventional studies of HIV and viral hepatitis among PWID in the U.S. and abroad.

After joining the UCSD faculty, Dr. Garfein has conducted studies describing HIV and HCV risk among PWID and other marginalized populations in the U.S./Mexico border region. He is also conducting research on the behavioral determinates of acute HIV infection and public health policies related to HIV testing and non-prescription syringe sales.

Dr. Garfein subsequently expanded the scope of his research to include describing tuberculosis among vulnerable populations, evaluating molecular assays for rapid detection of drug resistant TB, and developing mobile phone based interventions for improving patient adherence to anti-TB treatment.

His international research and consulting activities have included Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Taiwan, Okinawa, Puerto Rico, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Kyrgyzstan.

In the News

UC San Diego and Verizon Team to Improve Tuberculosis Care

Verizon Foundation to provide grant, in-kind technology solutions to scale up novel approach to TB treatment

Most Injection Drug Users in Tijuana Have Tuberculosis

A new study from UCSD reveals two-thirds of IV drug users in Tijuana test positive for tuberculosis

From Child's Play to Healthcare Game Changer

Verizon is proud to congratulate a pioneering partner, Dr. Richard Garfein and his team, at the Division of Global Public Health, Dept. of Medicine at the University of California San Diego


Nominee, Charles C. Shepard Science Award, 2010

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Nominee, Charles C. Shepard Science Award, 2008

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

US Public Health Service, 2003

Unit Commendation

US Public Health Service, 2001

Unit Commendation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Honor Award, 2001

Group Award