Dr Ranjan Nanda, a scientist working on the 'electronic nose', which can sniff tuberculosis (TB) from the breath of a patient, has said that it could be a few weeks before he could begin trials. Dr Nanda visited Sewree TB Hospital on Monday for a preliminary round of talks with hospital authorities before initiating research with TB patients in the city.
"A lot of formalities have to be completed before we can start any research with the patients there," Dr Nanda said. The scientist from International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Delhi, rued that research in India was a time-consuming process. "It will easily take about four to six months before any kind of project can be initiated in any hospital. We will need clearances from the experimental committee, consent of patients, among other things," he said.
Dr Nanda is developing the hand-held prototype of the 'electronic nose', a device that looks like a breath analyzer used to detect alcohol in a person's breath. Dr Nanda has detected seven molecules present in a person's breath that undergo significant changes when the he is infected with TB.
The result of the first round of tests with the electronic nose in Delhi was very impressive, said Dr Nanda, who wants to conduct research in three more centers including the Sewree TB Hospital in Mumbai, Agartala and Chennai. He has already initiated talks in talks with a few hospitals in the other two cities.
The study received a grant of $950,000 (Rs4.6 crores) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada last November.
Presently, tuberculosis is detected in a patient by taking his sputum sample at least twice - once when he's fasting, and then after food intake. The accuracy of the test is about 60%.
Health officials in the city have welcomed Dr Nanda's experiment stating that if found successful, the electronic nose would be a cost-effective screening tool for patients. "I am very happy that an Indian is involved in a new invention that will help TB patients. We will do all we can to help him complete his research," said a senior medical officer from the Sewree TB Hospital, who chose to remain anonymous.