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.
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!