Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that causes bloating, diarrhea and constipation. It's also difficult to diagnose – often a colonoscopy is required in order to do so. Soon, however, it may be possible for doctors to simply use a belt that listens to patients' guts.
Developed by a team at the University of Western Australia, the prototype belt utilizes artificial intelligence (AI), along with acoustic sensing technology that was originally designed to track the sound of termites eating.
The scientists started out with 68 test subjects, 31 of whom had already been clinically diagnosed with IBS, and 37 of whom had healthy digestive systems. All of these people wore the belt for two hours after a period of fasting, and for 40 minutes after consuming a standardized meal.
As they wore it, it recorded the noises made by their bowels. Using this data, the AI created an acoustic index which differentiated between the sound patterns of IBS guts and healthy guts.
Next, the belt was used on another 30 volunteers, half of whom were known IBS-sufferers and half of whom weren't. This time around, the device was being used to try to determine which people had the condition, and it was able to do so with an 87 percent accuracy rate. According to the researchers, that number can quite likely be improved.
"This study allowed us to achieve proof of concept," says Dr. Josephine Muir. "Once we further develop the belt and test it on more patients, this tool will be intended for use in primary care settings for the diagnosis of IBS. The hope is that this new technology can offer a less-invasive way to diagnose this painful, and sometimes debilitating, condition."
The research was recently presented at the Digestive Disease Week conference in Washington, DC.
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