A new kind of endoscope to detect and diagnose inflammatory bowel disease early has been developed by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA).
The Confocal Laser Endomicroscope (CLE) contains a powerful microscope which allows clinicians to view the bacteria that are thought to trigger diseases of the bowel such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
"Bacteria within the wall of the gut are already believed to play an important role in the development of inflammatory bowel disease and we now have a powerful new tool for viewing this bacteria during routine colonoscopy," said Prof Alastair Watson.
"This new technique will allow the rapid identification of patients at risk or in the early stages of this common but distressing group of diseases," he added.
The current method of taking biopsies prevents observation of the bacteria's exact location and of the way it interacts with the mucous membrane.
The new endomicroscopy technique, which uses a flourescent dye to highlight the bacteria, allows these exact processes to be viewed at a sub-cellular level during routine colonoscopy.