Investigational Imaging Technology Allows Deep Look at Lungs, Quickly Detecting Bacteria

Investigational Imaging Technology Allows Deep Look at Lungs, Quickly Detecting Bacteria
New medical imaging technology being developed by British researchers allows doctors to see bacteria deep inside patients’ lungs — an unprecedented achievement that may enable detection of harmful bacteria in less than 60 seconds. Bronchiectasis is caused by inflammation and infection that prevents the airways from clearing mucus. As mucus builds up, more bacteria can grow and the airways become increasingly infected. In cases like bronchiectasis and other lung diseases, a fast bacteria diagnosis could allow doctors to quickly administer the right medicine to critically ill patients, avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics. Doctors now must rely on X-rays or fluid samples to diagnose infection, which often leads to inaccurate results, misdiagnosis, or a long wait for results. Edinburgh, Bath and Heriot-Watt academics co-developed the new approach with funding from the U.K.'s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and others, under a consortium called “Proteus.” Chemical probes designed by the team are sprayed into patients’ lungs and light up when they attach to specific types of infectious bacteria. This fluorescence is detected using fiber-optic tubes that are small enough to travel deep inside the lungs. Researchers are also developing optical fibers and detector technologies that allow sensing and imaging deep inside the lung, and are also adapting the technology to detect and treat other infections, such as fungi. The probes are being tested in studies involving patients with bronchiectasis, and will soon be tested in patients who are being ventilated and suspected of having pneumonia. If the approach is found to be safe and effective, it could help speed up doctors’ ability to provide life-saving treatments for
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