Device to sniff out stomach bugs could save NHS millions

Issue date: 05 February 2010


Odoreader Testing has begun on a device that can sniff out the presence of disease by smell, thanks to a £1.3 million award from the Wellcome Trust http://www.wellcome.ac.uk.OdoReader, developed by Norman Ratcliffe and Ben deLacyCostello from the University of the West of England and Chris Probert from the University of Bristol, uses pioneering technology to rapidly diagnose Clostridium difficile, by 'reading' the odour of stool samples. Clostridium difficile may cause severe diarrhoea, especially amongst hospitalised patients.

With the help of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, the technology enables gasses emitted from faeces to be analysed in under an hour, leading to a rapid and inexpensive diagnosis. Such early detection could reap real health benefits for millions of people and help prevent the spread of infectious disease.

Gastro-intestinal diseases afflict over four billion adults and children each year. Delays in diagnosis can lead to patients being ill for longer, some may die, many will cost more to treat and infections may spread to other people. In England and Wales there are over 50,000 cases of Clostridium difficile each year: this infection prolongs hospitalisation, is associated with high morbidity and mortality and costs the NHS £200 million annually.

The £1.3 million Wellcome Trust Translation Award will cover a three-year programme of work starting in January 2010. It will support the development of OdoReader prototypes, which will then be tested against the industry 'gold standard' method of making the diagnosis. The final produce will undergo a clinical trial before becoming available for commercialisation in 2012/13.

Chris Probert, Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Bristol, and Consultant Gastroenterologist at University Hospitals Bristol, said:

"For a long time it has been known that stools have a distinctive and different odour if there is an infection. What OdoReader does is take this “knowledge” a step further by comparing the odour of faeces of patients with those from patients with specific gastro-intestinal disease to make a rapid diagnosis at point of care."

Professor Norman Ratcliffe from the University of the West of England, added:

"We expect OdoReader to be a portable device for the diagnosis of C difficile, however it has potential far beyond that – it could be used for a range of other gastrointestinal disease as well as lung and urinary tract diseases too."

Rick Davis, Business Development Manager at the Wellcome Trust, stated:

"The Wellcome Trust Translation Awards are designed to facilitate the development and commercialisation of new healthcare technologies. OdoReader has shown great promise in early testing and we are hopeful that this diagnostic platform will prove valuable in the race against the “superbugs”."

Christine Perry, Assistant Chief Nurse and Director of Infection Prevention and Control for University Hospitals Bristol, said:

"The Trust is very pleased to be involved in this exciting development. The technology has real potential for vastly improving our ability to prevent infections and provide high quality care for our patients."

ENDS
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