London: A video game that fights tuberculosis by raising awareness about the disease and tests a mathematical model that predicts its spread has been developed.
The video game, named Project Sanitarium, lets players battle tuberculosis, treating individual patients across the globe with limited resources.
The game involves making strategic choices about allocating resources to treat patients, as well as smaller classic arcade-style games which explore specific details about how drug treatments work and how to read X-rays.
The game is powered by Microsoft mobile and cloud technology so players can receive real-time updates on the virtual patients they are treating.
The game was developed by Radication Games, a team of undergraduate students at Abertay University, as their third year group project. It uses a mathematical model developed by Professor Stephen Gillespie and Dr Ruth Bowness at the University of St Andrews.
As well as raising awareness of tuberculosis, the game helps test the mathematical model and provide data back to Gillespie's infection research group.
"The scale of the global tuberculosis pandemic is absolutely terrifying, but there's still very little awareness about this disease," said John Brengman, student producer of Project Sanitarium.
"You have as much chance of surviving Ebola without treatment as you do of surviving tuberculosis with treatment. We want to use games technology to help tackle this massive problem, through raising awareness and helping test the scientists' mathematical model," Brengman said.
The mathematical model developed by Gillespie's team predicts how the disease spreads. It was created as part of research work to reduce the cost of clinical trials which can cost many millions of pounds and take up to ten years from the inception of a study to the publication of the final paper.
The hope is that creating a game for release worldwide can raise awareness of TB and help test the mathematical model, informing the design of future clinical trials and saving time and money, researchers said.
"By developing Project Sanitarium into an effective teaching tool for the public and health professionals we can demystify the disease and help more patients to complete their treatment and be cured," said Gillespie.
Researchers will now develop a larger version of the game for release worldwide.