The diarrhoea diagnostic device: from bench to bedside

Researchers from the Department of Applied Sciences are working to produce a device that can confirm the presence of disease by smell, with a £1.3 million award from the Wellcome Trust.

OdoReader has been developed by Professor Norman Ratcliffe, Dr Natasha Mcguire, and Dr Ben de Lacy Costello from the Centre for Research in Biosciences, UWE Bristol, with Chris Probert from the University of Bristol, and the help of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust. The device uses pioneering technology to rapidly diagnose Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), by analysing the gases from stool samples.

The C. difficile infection is the most common bacterial cause of hospital-acquired diarrhoea. It is a global problem that afflicts over 50,000 people annually in England and Wales, and in Europe is thought to be responsible for losses of about three billion Euros per year. Rapid diagnosis will aid recovery, prevent the spread of infectious disease and save lives and money. With support from the Wellcome Trust, the team has already shown that C. difficile infection can be diagnosed by an ‘electronic nose’ that analyses gases from stools.

The researchers are now developing the technology so that an unskilled operative in a hospital setting can simply place a stool sample in the diarrhoea diagnostic device and, within less than 15 minutes, obtain a readout confirming the presence or absence of C. difficile. To assess the prototype, a large study is proposed in two major hospitals in the South West.

Speaking about the importance of the research, Professor Norman Ratcliffe says: "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 diseases as well as lung and urinary tract diseases too. Our ultimate goal is to deliver an investment-ready point-of-care device which can then be rapidly brought to the market to improve patient care.”

For more information contact Professor Norman Ratcliffe.

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