London: Scientists have developed an electronic nose that can non-invasively detect colon diseases and distinguish between patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
The device - named Moosy 32 eNose - can also tell whether the disease is active, with close to 90 per cent accuracy.
In the future this type of equipment could be available for digestive system specialists who could, thanks to a simple stool analysis which takes three minutes, determine the state of the patient, according to researchers from Valencia's Polytechnic University in Spain.
It is common nowadays to use invasive tests to diagnose and evaluate inflammatory activity as a result of colon- related illnesses, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both classified as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
With the developed prototype, researchers want to contribute to the creation of non-invasive diagnosing systems.
It is believed that as many as 200,000 people currently suffer from these illnesses in Spain and the rise in incidence continues to increase annually by over three per cent.
The nose can detect volatile organic compounds which act as diagnostic markers or to reveal the intensity level of the disease's activity.
"Volatile organic compounds are created by physiological processes of the human body's metabolism and are expelled as waste through faeces," said Pilar Nos, Head of the Digestive System Medicine Department at La Fe Health Investigation Institute in Spain.
"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," said Nos.
Researchers have performed tests with 445 samples and have obtained positive results.
"Results of the investigation are positive; however, it is paramount to continue working to improve the detection algorithms," said Jose Pelegri, from Valencia's Polytechnic University.
The system is being tested for further medical uses, such as detecting prostate cancer.
Other studies, with positive results, are also being performed such as detecting the microbial contamination of water or determining the maturity level of fruit, which could have key applications within the agro-food industry.