A scientist working on an 'electronic nose', which can sniff tuberculosis (TB) on the patient's breath, will now conduct research with patients at the city's Sewree TB Hospital.
Dr Rajan Nanda, who is developing the hand-held prototype of the TB testing device, will visit the hospital on Monday. "The results of the first round of tests in Delhi are very impressive. I want to test the device at three more centres including the Sewree TB Hospital in Mumbai. I will visit the hospital on Monday and initiate formalities required for it," said Dr Nanda, who works at International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Delhi.
Dr Nanda plans to study patients at Agartala and Chennai, too. The study received a grant of $9,50,000 (Rs 4.6 crore) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada last November.
The handheld device requires a patient to blow into it. The breath contains about 3,000 to 4,000 molecules, which can be profiled using a Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). "In a TB patient, seven molecules show significant changes," said Dr Nanda, who has studied the breaths of 110 patients in Delhi.
Presently, tuberculosis is detected in a patient by taking his sputum sample at least twice. "This involves a patient going to a dispensary at least twice to confirm or rule out TB. Besides that, the patient has to wait for 24 hours for results. The sensitivity (accuracy) of the (sputum) test is about 60%," Dr Nanda said.
The electronic nose will be a cost-effective screening tool for patients. "Testing TB has been the biggest challenge. With an electronic nose, the patient won't have to go to the hospital," said Dr Nanda.