Researchers from Stanford University have introduced what they are calling a ‘smart toilet’ that will detect health problems such as urinary tract infections and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as the functioning of bladder and prostate by using a sensor, testing strips and a camera.
'Smart toilet' can detect multiple signs of illness through automated urine and stool analysis, a new Stanford study reports. https://t.co/MiyWlwCWjV
— Stanford Medicine (@StanfordMed) April 6, 2020
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) include the infection of the kidney (pyelonephritis) and the lower tract infection includes infection of ureters, bladder and urethra. The early symptoms involve a strong urge to urinate, burning sensation while urinating and a sign of blood in the urine.
The UTIs are more common in women than men. According to a Columbian research, 23.3% of women and 6.8% of men suffer from acute UTIs, respectively.
The researchers believe that a smart toilet can be used to gain a better health outcome of those who have urinary problems as the toilet can provide a smart way to assess the emergence of diseases. The investigators consider the new toilet a ‘daily clinic’ that includes pressure sensors, a camera and artificial intelligence.
The sensors and detectors include some test strips that can detect various internal body aspects such as the level of glucose and red blood cells to detect early problems such as kidney disease, diabetes and blood in urine. The team specified the role of fingerprint scanner on the flush handle and also a distinctive way of using anal creases, referred to as ‘analprints’. These anal creases are used as biometric identifiers to securely associate the collected data with the user’s identity.
The camera captures the image of the distinctive crease in the lining of the anus. It also records a videotape to check the changes in the flow of urination and stool that can be used in observing the inconsistencies and symptoms related to bladder and prostate functions. The camera takes a snapshot of passing stool.
Furthermore, a machine learning system and artificial intelligence will be used to arrange the snaps into different types on the Bristol Stool Scale (BSS) which is a medical aid designed to classify feces into seven groups. Early detection of problems including constipation and diarrhea can be done through BSS.
The mountable toilet system can also assess the early urinating problems such as diabetes to urinary tract infections and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) which is an idiopathic (unknown cause) inflammatory disease resulting from abnormal immune activation of the body to its intestinal tract. IBD can lead to damage to the gastrointestinal tract.
Old Toilet vs New Toilet Approach
It has been noted by the international team of researchers that the smart toilet developed previously was more expensive and provided limited details of the urination and passing feces. However, the new smart toilet is cost effected and ideal as it can provide detailed information about stool and urination.
A total of 21 participants took part in the research. As a result, the team gained three different outcomes from the participants, including the need to develop self-cleaning mechanisms to avoid false positives in the tests and adapt the system to squatting toilets. The third outcome suggested that this new approach needs more clinical studies to design a better system for women because the present system is currently for those who can pee while standing.
Professor Tim Spector, an expert on the gut microbiome from Kings College London, says:
We know that your stool sample is probably the best snapshot of your current health that we have. The future will be either a magic toilet paper that gives you this result or these magic toilets that will give you a chemical analysis, basically of the chemicals your microbes are producing, to give a snapshot of your inner health.
Another survey near Stanford University included 300 participants. They were asked to give reviews on the new magical toilet. As a result, 30% of the people reviewed regarding privacy concerns that they feel uncomfortable while using a toilet that has a camera in it. The most disliked part reported was the analprinting.
The researchers also hope to make this approach more extensive by making it compatible to test the illicit drug use and sexually transmitted infections through the sensors and urine analysis system.
The Stanford study was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.