PillCam Explores Gut for Clearer Celiac Diagnosis

A small capsule containing a camera can, when ingested by a patient, explore the small intestine for a celiac diagnosis. Combined with computer technology, it can diagnose the disease without an invasive procedure and with greater accuracy.

Gut experts normally use endoscopy to look for telltale damage from celiac. Human analysts sometimes misinterpret images and tissue samples from the gut lining. Some doctors and patients skip the endoscopy altogether, relying on even less accurate blood tests. Misdiagnosis is common in celiac patients.

Research from Singapore and Columbia University has developed an approach that could reduce the fuss and uncertainty. The patient would ingest a small capsule called a PillCam to capture images of the gut in its travels. The person would carry a data recorder for eight hours. The pill would pass out of the body after a day or two.

Video clips would be sent to a computer deep-learning system trained to detect celiac. It can distinguish diseased from healthy gut lining with 100 percent accuracy.

The technology still has some kinks. It needs a large volume of images and cannot make a diagnosis in real time. The researchers developing the system plan to fine tune it for efficiency to help doctors cut the rate of misdiagnosis.

Van Waffle is a freelance journalist in Waterloo, Canada, and research editor for Gluten-Free Living. He blogs at vanwaffle.com. 

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