Researchers from the Proteus consortium in the UK are developing new lung probes to facilitate visualisation and detection of infections deep inside the lungs.
The consortium includes the Universities of Edinburgh and Bath, as well as Heriot-Watt University funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The new medical, bedside imaging technology involves spraying of chemical probes into the lungs of patients.
When attached to certain types of infectious bacteria, these probes emit fluorescence, which can be detected with small fibre-optic tubes that travel deep into patient’s lungs.
Existing diagnostic approaches such as X-rays and fluid samples are considered imprecise and time-consuming. However, initial tests showed that the new technology can potentially deliver results within 60 seconds.
The researchers are further assessing the new probes in clinical trials with bronchiectasis patients and those who are ventilated in intensive care units for suspected pneumonia.
If successful, the technology is expected to speed up life-saving treatments and avoid the use of unnecessary antibiotic medications through identification of patients who might benefit from the therapy.
Furthermore, the Proteus team is creating optical fibres and new detector technologies to facilitate sensing and imaging deep inside the lung.
They are also working towards adopting the technology to detect and treat additional infections and illness such as fungi and cancer.
University of Edinburgh Molecular Imaging and Healthcare Technology professor Kev Dhaliwal said: “Our team is making rapid progress in bringing together many technologies to help us develop entirely new approaches to diagnose and treat disease at the bedside.”