In recent years, a method for testing for tuberculosis has been devised in which fluid samples are taken from the lungs, removing the need for expensive and bulky x-ray machines.
However, even using this method, it is necessary to use a fibre optic endoscope to guide a catheter past the vocal chords. And the equipment is very expensive and hard to transport.
With an idea of how they might get around these issues and develop an inexpensive alternative solution, researchers at the North Central London Innovation Hub (NCLIH) turned to product development consultancy 42 Technology for help.
‘They had a means of diagnosing TB but they needed a way to get a catheter into the lungs,’ said Nick Campling, managing director of 42 Technology.
42 Technology focussed on the fact that the resulting product would need to be inexpensive and either disposable or steriliseable, and developed a handheld device with an adjustable mirror and an LED that allow the throat to be viewed and illuminated, allowing the insertion of the catheter.
‘We designed for manufacture and assembly, making sure the materials were approved for medical use. In this instance we also had to consider things like anti-fogging on the mirror and keeping the LED and other electronics out of the mouth, in addition to obvious things like hygiene and avoiding sharp edges,’ added Campling.
The device is currently still under development.