Cranfield technology noses ahead

October 28, 1999

Scientists at Cranfield University have developed a new medical test based on ancient Chinese methods for diagnosing disease. The test named 'Diag-Nose', uses cutting edge technology to 'sniff out' disease. A number of medical conditions produce a characteristic odour and identification is a difficult process due to the subjective nature of human smell.

To solve this problem, Dr Selly Saini and Jan Leiferkus of the Cranfield Postgraduate Medical School have developed an artificial nose that electronically identifies odours. It uses the same process human noses except odours are classified electronically, thereby avoiding human bias. The technology will dramatically reduce the diagnosis time for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).

UTIs are second in incidence only to respiratory infections and rank first amongst adult bacterial diseases requiring medical attention. The majority of sufferers are women as the female urethra is shorter than that of the male. By the age of thirty, 20% will have suffered a UTI with many having recurrent episodes. The most common complaint affects the bladder cystitis, more serious complaints can go on to affect the kidney.

Fast, efficient diagnosis and treatment not only eases the pain and discomfort experienced by patients but can free up many medical resources. Current tests take between 24 and 48 hours and are sent away to a laboratory. 'Diag-Nose' returns results in a matter of hours and can be installed in most surgeries. The new test can also be done for a faction of the present cost of UTI diagnosis.

The test works by sniffing out characteristic odours of infecting microorganisms from a patient's urine when mixed with a specially engineered growth medium. As the microorganisms multiply, they produce odours that give their presence away. Each microorganism produces a different odour allowing 'Diag-Nose to determine the underlying infection so correct treatment can be given.

Laboratory trails for the new test have proved very successful and already 80% of UTIs can be detected. Clinical trails starting shortly will give a full evaluation of 'Diag- Nose', diagnostic companies are currently being sought to bring the technology to the market.

Dr Saini believes; "If clinical trails prove successful, Diag-Nose will hold a number of advantages to patient and doctor ûsince the test only requires a small urine sample it becomes much more comfortable for the Patient. It reduces diagnosis time allowing same day treatment and less anxiety for the patient."

Diag-Nose is also being evaluated as a means of diagnosing diseases such as TB as well as certain cancers. Ends
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Cranfield University

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