Healthcare Today (11.27.12)
Aids Weekly Plus
Researchers in the Netherlands and Bangladesh have developed an electronic nose, or e-Nose, to detect TB. They hope the device will replace conventional diagnostic methods, including laboratory cultures from a patient’s sputum and chest X-rays. Laboratory cultures take weeks or months to develop, and they do not indicate whether the disease is drug resistant.
A seven-month pilot study was conducted in partnership with Bangladesh’s National TB Control Program, using 230 individuals, some of whom were healthy and some who had active TB. The results showed the e-Nose to be easy to use, fast, highly sensitive, and specific. According to lead researcher Zeaur Rahim, of the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, the device will be useful to people in places with a high TB burden. He also stated that the diagnostic process was risk-free to healthcare workers as they did not come into contact with patients’ biological samples.
The e-Nose has metal oxide sensors that detect volatile organic compounds in a sample of the air exhaled by the patient blowing into an airbag for the test. Computers analyze the results from the sensors and compare them with results for normal air. The device also senses traces of bacteria other than TB. The commercially available version of the tool, DiagNose, can reduce the cost of a TB test to US $10, which is much lower than the cost of available diagnostic tests now. Dutch researcher Marcel Bruins of the e-Nose company stated that the company aims to market a user-friendly, low-cost TB-screening device for use anywhere in the world. The software can be adjusted for use in different parts of the world to accommodate TB strains that may vary greatly from place to place.
The study, ”Diagnosis of Active Tuberculosis by E-Nose Analysis of Exhaled Air,” was published online in Tuberculosis Journal (DOI: 10.1016/j.tube.2012.10.002).