Stool-sample-sniffin' electronic nose detects diseases
Typically, colon-related illnesses such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are diagnosed via invasive tests. Thanks to a new "electronic nose," however, it may soon be possible to detect such disorders by analyzing a whiff of the patient's feces.
Known as the Moosy 32 eNose, the device is being developed by a Spanish team from Valencia's Polytechnic University and the La Fe Health Investigation Institute.
In lab tests performed on 445 stool samples so far, it's proven to be almost 90 percent accurate at differentiating between Crohn's and colitis – this is based on a three-minute analysis of the volatile organic compounds emanating from those samples. The technology can also ascertain the severity of the disease.
"Volatile organic compounds are created by physiological processes of the human body's metabolism and are expelled as waste through feces," says La Fe's Dr. Pilar Nos. "The concentration of these components can be a differentiating marker between certain bowel diseases, and their accurate detection by way of non-invasive devices such as the electronic nose would be a great step forward for the detection and monitoring of the evolution of these diseases."
Before the eNose can enter common use, however, its detection algorithms need to be improved in order to boost its accuracy. Down the road, the device could conceivably be utilized to diagnose other disorders, and may even find use in measuring the microbial contamination of water or assessing the ripeness of fruit.