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Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada Fund TB Diagnostic

Electronic Nose (Grand Challenges Canada)

Electronic Nose (Grand Challenges Canada)

A device called an Electronic Nose that can detect tuberculosis in the breath of a patient, has received a $950,000 grant from Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The funding will support further development and testing of the technology, developed by the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi and Next Dimension Technologies in Pasadena, California.

The World Health Organization says one-third of the world’s population is infected with TB bacteria. The immune system is generally protected against TB bacilli which, surrounded by a thick waxy coat, can lie dormant for years. When someone’s immune system is weakened, however, the chances of becoming sick are greater. Cases of the disease are rare in the developed world, but much more prevalent in southeast Asia and sub-Sahara Africa. WHO says an estimated 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009.

The electronic nose technology tracks biomarkers for tuberculosis (TB) in the breath of patients exhibiting symptoms of the disease. The device, say its developers, can detect TB immediately and non-invasively, instead of current methods such as a chest X-ray or sputum culture analysis. By more easily identifying the biomarkers and thus the disease, the developers believe the electronic nose can lead to earlier diagnosis and better patient treatment.

Researchers from ICGEB are adapting sensors developed by Next Dimension Technologies designed for medical diagnostics, and based on nanotechnology. Nathan Lewis, one of the company’s founders, is a chemistry professor at California Institute of Technology, who has conducted extensive research on chemically sensitive polymer films that in the presence of certain vapors produce a distinguishable response pattern.

Read more: Gates Grant Awarded for Tuberculosis Genomics Research

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