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COPD Detector


Swansea University has developed a novel, innovative diagnostic for respiratory disease. The technology was developed at the Centre for NanoHealth (CNH) at Swansea University by Professor Paul Lewis. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) is not a singular disease, but rather a term for a number of chronic lung diseases, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is a serious global health issue and is predicted to be the third leading cause of death worldwide. A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) report indicated that COPD is in the highest ranking disease burden category of diseases worldwide and is the leading cause of death in the UK. There is currently no existing gold-standard or state-of-the-art technology available to identify early markers of disease exacerbation in COPD. Current interventions for COPD, such as smoking cessation, rehabilitation, nutrition support, drug treatments and psychosocial aids, are mainly carried out in hospitals on a case by case basis among patients who have already developed moderately or severely symptomatic COPD. Little attention has been paid to community based integrated interventions which can identify exacerbations earlier and so encourage prophylactic therapeutic interventions and avoid hospitalisation.


Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is a non-invasive technology that can detect structural changes in molecules from cells. FTIR has shown promise as a sensitive diagnostic tool to distinguish damaged from normal cells in mucus. The technology uses non-invasive IR spectroscopy to easily and rapidly analyse patient sputum samples for proteins, nucleic acids, and other biomarkers that are characteristic of COPD. The technology allows for early diagnosis and the handheld point-of-care device can also deliver accurate results within ten minutes. Most importantly the technology allows for the measurement of exacerbation of the disease in patients.


This technology is beneficial for both medical practitioners and patients as currently there are no diagnostic tools for COPD. Estimating the costs associated with COPD treatment is challenging and complicated by factors such as under-diagnosis and presence of comorbid disease. Nevertheless, in 2003, the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimated that total costs (direct and indirect) of COPD were US$32.1 billion, with direct costs of US$18.0 billion. In the United Kingdom it is estimated that 25,000 deaths per annum are caused by COPD exacerbation at a cost to the NHS of at least £1 billion per annum. This technology can solve the difficulty in diagnosing COPD and through regular monitoring of patients at the point-of-care can alleviate some of the hospitalisation that arises following disease exacerbation.

A patent for this technology has been filed by Swansea University under GB 1401055.7