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MOVIE Please have a look at some limited footage that tells us all about this highly sensitive testing technology

No.07 It accurately detects influenza viruses and Mycoplasma bacteria! A Highly sensitive testing technology

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Our science reporter’s sneak report INNOVATION REPORT It accurately detects influenza viruses and Mycoplasma bacteria!
This highly sensitive testing technology, derived from photographic development, is an easy and speedy weapon against infections!

  • Meet Our Reporters
  • Our Technology
  • Examples and Outlook

Meet Our Reporters

  • Miori Nakayama Science specialization: Coordination chemistry

    PROFILE

Our Technology

Innovation Reporter Miori Nakayama talked to researchers
Junichi Katada and Natsuki Oyabu about Fujifilm’s highly sensitive testing technology,
which is capable of easily diagnosing Mycoplasma and influenza,
even in the earliest stages.

Junichi KatadaPharmaceutical & Healthcare Research Laboratories Research & DevelopmentManagement HeadquartersFujifilm Corporation Natsuki OyabuPharmaceutical & Healthcare Research Laboratories Research & DevelopmentManagement HeadquartersFujifilm Corporation

Highly sensitive testing technologyNakayama: I hear that accurate diagnosis at an early stage is very important in the fight against infectious diseases!
I would like to ask you about this highly sensitive testing technology, which is able to accurately detect influenza viruses and Mycoplasma bacteria. The term "infectious diseases" sounds a little scary and doesn’t seem to have much to do with our daily lives. Is it really that relevant to us?

Katada : An example of an infection might be the symptoms of what we call a "cold." If I go to my doctor with these symptoms, he or she might tell me: "It seems to be a cold." But in reality, there is a variety of viruses or bacteria that cause the common cold, even though we sum up them all as a cold. The pathways of infection differ too.
If we don’t know its cause and how to treat it, it is possible that we could pass an infection on to our families. So infections are part of our lives and can affect any one of us.

Nakayama : I see! Although we say it’s a “cold,” it’s certainly an infectious disease with a cause of some kind! Early diagnosis of the causes of these infectious diseases was difficult, wasn’t it?

Oyabu : Yes, it was. The problem was that in the early stages of an infection, the number of viruses or bacteria causing it are few and so difficult to detect.

Nakayama : So if I have an infectious disease, even if I see my doctor early, he or she might not be able to immediately identify the cause?

Katada : Yes. For example, if a child gets a fever, even if you take him or her to the doctor early, the number of viruses and bacteria in the body may still be low when the symptoms begin to appear. Up to now, with many tests, viruses and bacteria could not be detected until they had increased beyond a certain level in the body. So even if you go to see your doctor early, you may be sent home with the words: "come back tomorrow for another diagnosis.

Nakayama : That would be a matter of waiting for the number of viruses and bacteria in the body to increase and the symptoms to get worse, and then having to go to the doctor again...
It’s hard enough for me if I get an infectious disease, but for a parent, seeing their young child not treated immediately is hard to bear

Oyabu : Seeing a child suffer without knowing the cause is psychologically very hard on the parent. Having the cause clearly identified at an early stage would not only make it easier for the child with the infectious disease, but would also reduce the risk to the family of secondary infection and lighten the psychological burden on the family.

Nakayama : That's very true! I actually had Mycoplasma pneumonia when I was a child, but the first time I went to the doctor, she said I had a cold. However, a bad cough and fever symptoms continued for some time and I went back a while later and was finally diagnosed with Mycoplasma pneumonia. By that time, I was already starting to get better, but until then I had been suffering at home all the time thinking I had a cold. (Wry smile)It’s really important to be able to identify the cause early.

Katada : That's right. Knowing what caused the symptoms reduces the risk of the infection spreading, enables the right medicine to be prescribed and increases the possibility of early recovery.

Nakayama : If you don’t know the cause and think it’s probably just a cold, you might choose an over-the-counter drug you think could work, but if the viral or bacterial cause can be clearly identified, you can take the proper medicine that will work for that!

Oyabu : As Ms. Nakayama said, trying out various medicines without knowing the cause is actually a major medical risk. There is such a thing as drug resistant bacteria. There’s the risk of sudden mutations of viruses, and the bacteria becoming resistant to drugs because of this inappropriate use of antibiotics. This results in drug resistant bacteria that can’t be treated with existing antibiotics. In recent years, the spread of drug resistant bacteria infections has become serious, and annual deaths worldwide from these are said to have reached 700,000. Therefore, identifying the virus or bacteria responsible early and prescribing and using the proper drug can lower the risk of creating drug resistant bacteria.

Nakayama : The more I hear about this, the more I think it’s really important to diagnose the cause of an infection early! Fujifilm's highly sensitive testing technology has made it possible to detect viruses or bacteria in the early stages of infection when their numbers are low, something that was difficult until now. But what kind of technology is this?

Katada : First, as a general examination technique, there’s the immunochromatographic method, which marks the antigens specific to viruses or bacteria for visual identification. For example, in the case of a pregnancy test kit, a positive result can be confirmed if the detection area generates a color. But in reality, depending on the number of viruses or bacteria, this method may not yield a distinct color.
If the number of viruses and bacteria is low, no color at all may emerge, or if the color is faint, it may be overlooked during an actual visual inspection. Accordingly, Fujifilm used silver amplification technology acquired from photographic film development to make the markers on antigens much easier to see, allowing them to be detected with a high degree of sensitivity even when the number of viruses or bacteria is low in the early stages of an infection.
The silver amplification technology is an application of photographic development technology. By forming a silver cluster around the small and previously hard-to-see markers (gold fine particles), the markers can be amplified 100 to 200 times.

Inside a special cartridge, even just a few bacteria, virus particles or other antigens are identified and a small mark is placed on them.Fujifilm's silver amplification method magnifies that mark 100 times and makes it easier to find.

Nakayama : I see! If the number of viruses or bacteria is low, the markers are also small and have been hard to see until now, but by enlarging the markers, it has become possible to detect them with a high degree of sensitivity! That’s amazing!
The application of photo development technology is also unique to Fujifilm!

Katada : Fujifilm’s unique image analysis technologies acquired through digital cameras and other products are also used. With visual confirmation, there are individual differences in reading, and for busy doctors, the confirmation process itself is another unwanted burden. Fujifilm's highly sensitive testing technology also automates the test result screening, which lowers the risk of overlooking viruses or bacteria without incurring any extra effort.
In particular, Mycoplasma bacteria, which are hard to discover in the early stages of an infection, are not only slow to increase, but because they tend to lurk behind the lungs, their numbers are even lower in places, such as the throat and nose, where they can be easily collected. But with the practical application of this highly sensitive testing technology, it has become possible to easily and reliably detect Mycoplasma bacteria with a high degree of sensitivity.

Nakayama : That sounds really great!
But when I heard about this highly sensitive testing technology, it seemed that it was too good to be true and the threshold for use was too high. For example, could it easily be used on me if I were a patient?

Oyabu : Of course! Anyone can easily use it, and it lightens the burden on both patients and doctors. We brought the actual testing kit, so I can explain how we examine for Mycoplasma, which is hard to discover in the early stages of an infection.

Nakayama : Yes, please!

Exsamples and Outlook

Future prospects,
case studies of successful introduction Case studies of successful
introduction of highly sensitive testing technology and its future prospects

Katada : I will explain a testing method, utilizing highly sensitive testing technology, that’s currently in use in medical facilities around the country — mainly in pediatrics.

Nakayama : Just how is the test performed?

Katada : Following the Mycoplasma virus test outline, we first take a sample from the patient's throat using a cotton swab. We then dip the swab into an extract solution and rinse, place drops of the solution in a special cartridge, then simply insert into the testing equipment. As the result appears right there in about 15 minutes, if it turns out to be the Mycoplasma bacteria, the appropriate treatment can be started immediately.

Nakayama : It's very simple! Instead of the patient being taken back to the hospital after the symptoms become severe, the result is known right away, which is really good for the patient.

Katada : That’s right. The burden of the test on the patient has been greatly alleviated. With one Mycoplasma testing method, depending on conditions relating to the symptoms, it might be necessary to perform a secondary blood collection on a different day. Mycoplasma tends to be a childhood infection, so it’s very hard on children to have two blood samplings and to prolong the suffering until the diagnosis results are known.

Nakayama : Indeed! And with this kit, it’s a lot less work for the doctor too, isn’t it?

Katada : Yes. The test is performed in very simple steps, and the machine automatically analyzes the image and prints out the result. Since you can print out as many copies as you like, you can give the results to the patient or attach them to the chart. Reducing unnecessary work for busy doctors and nurses also improves the quality of medical care.

Nakayama : This technology is really good news for both patients and doctors! And in addition to identifying viruses and bacteria early, this method is also highly accurate, isn’t it?

Katada : Of course. There is a testing method that amplifies and detects genes of viruses or bacteria. But while this is highly accurate, it requires specialized facilities and a lengthy test. Highly sensitive testing technology achieves similar accuracy to this method.
I explained earlier that the silver amplification method enlarges virus and bacteria markers, but actually the process for cleaning irrelevant items inside this small cartridge and making only the intended marker highly visible are also automatic. We spent a lot of research time establishing a system to prevent false positives, or incorrect results.

Nakayama : That's perfect!
Can this highly sensitive testing technology also be used to examine other infections?

Katada : Yes. Currently it can be used to identify five sources of infection: influenza virus, Mycoplasma bacteria, RS virus, Streptococcus and Adenovirus.
As I mentioned earlier, it is being used mainly in pediatrics. But because infectious diseases are very easy to examine with this kit, its use is also spreading to the field of ophthalmology.Actually, Adenoviruses may infect the eyes, but because the cause is unknown, there have been some cases of widespread contamination, which has been a growing concern.
In conventional testing, in order to obtain an adequate specimen, the doctor has to firmly swab the back of the eyelid, and this procedure is painful for the patient. But with the high-sensitivity technology method, which can detect even minute amounts of virus present in tears, you just need to absorb a small amount of tears, using, for example, filter paper.

Nakayama : It's wonderful that it’s so comfortable for the patient! Having the back of the eyelids rubbed by a cotton swab must have been extremely painful. It seems that the same technology can have a variety of different applications, and I’m sure there are still lots more areas where it can be used yet!

Oyabu : That's right. In the area of fighting against infectious diseases, I think this technology can be of use all around the world. Actually, Fujifilm is currently collaborating with specialized institutions and overseas research organizations to see whether it can be applied to tuberculosis and Ebola diagnosis. Looking around the world, more people die from infections in emerging countries than in developed ones. With this kit, you can understand how to operate it just by looking at the illustrations, and the result is clearly printed out on paper as "+", making it easy to use across language barriers and in places lacking specialized medical technology. This kit can help reduce the number of deaths caused by infectious diseases.

Please have a look at some limited footage that tells
us all about this highly sensitive testing technology.

Nakayama : It's extremely important that leading technologies can be easily used by anyone!

Katada : Yes. No matter how good the technology is, it makes no sense if it can’t be used by people. It’s important to increase its sensitivity as a technology of course, so it can be used, but it must also be inexpensive and easy to use by anyone. We give these points great priority in our research.

Nakayama : I’m sure highly sensitive testing technology will continue to expand!

Oyabu : I talked about its application to pediatrics and ophthalmology, as well as to infectious diseases spreading in emerging countries around the world. But because it’s a technology that can be applied to livestock and marine creatures as well as humans, we are also conducting government subsidized research into animal infectious diseases like foot-and-mouth.
I believe that early identification of the sources of infectious diseases, lowering mortality rates and concomitantly preventing the spread of infections is extremely useful from the viewpoint of solving health problems at a global level.
And personally, as a mother, I want to respond to the feelings of parents who want to protect the health of their small children and know the exact cause of an infection. Also as a researcher, I feel the satisfaction of being able to help solve the world’s health problems, and with new discoveries made in collaboration with various researchers, I find the work very interesting.

Nakayama : That’s great! It’s so exciting to hear that technology from photographic film development has ended up helping people all over the world stay healthy! Highly sensitive testing technology will surely continue to evolve!

Katada : Yes. High sensitivity is the strongest point of this examination system, which basically applies silver amplification technology from the development of photographic films.
Thanks to this, it is now possible to detect Mycoplasma bacteria — difficult to diagnose before.As a result, we can now administer the correct medicine early, allowing to the patient to recover sooner and prevent infection from spreading.
And if a mother knows what’s wrong with her child, for example, she will be relieved. So this very useful technology will provide emotional benefits as well.

We hope our highly sensitive testing technology will benefit the world in battling familiar infectious diseases such as influenza and Mycoplasma, infectious diseases that have spread around the world, and unknown infectious diseases. And as mothers and fathers ourselves, inspired by the thought of helping our own children with this technology, we would like to expand it so it can be used in a wide range of applications. At the same time, from the viewpoint of ease of use, we would like these tests to become more a part of daily lives and to be more widely used.
Even with big research projects, what is essential for the researchers is that their achievements can be of use and benefit everyone. In the future, we would like to further develop this highly sensitive testing technology to offer new contributions.

Nakayama : Thank you very much!

Finishing the interview

Miori Nakayama

I have seen this being advertised on TV and I got so excited when I got the chance to actually experience the highly sensitive testing technology up close. The testing method is really simple, the equipment is also very small, and I felt that there are more and more technologies that are good for both patients and doctors now.
Also, the professionalism shown in continuing the march towards the important goal of contributing to the resolution of the world’s health problems was truly inspiring.
I am really looking forward to seeing this technology used in a range of ways in the future!

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Meet our Reporters MIORI NAKAYAMA Age23 Scientific Specialization:Complex Chemistry

Hobbies include anime, movies and solo travel. Began studying rhythmic gymnastics at the age of four, gymnastics in junior high school, and ballet in college (she can even pop her shoulder joints!). Has never once dyed her hair. "My entire family's background is in science, so I was always good at science subjects. I'll be providing solid reporting on everything I learn about Fujifilm technologies."

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