BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

What did they do?

A team at Har­vard Med­i­cal School en­gi­neered gut bac­te­ria in a group of mice to turn their poo blue when they are in the pres­ence of dis­ease.

How did they do that?

They en­gi­neered a harm­less strain of E. coli bac­te­ria to pro­duce a par­tic­u­lar en­zyme when it came into con­tact with tetrathion­ate – a sub­stance seen in high lev­els in the guts of peo­ple with ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis. They were then able to iden­tify the en­zyme in the an­i­mals’ stools us­ing a test in which it changes colour.

Why did they do that?

Un­der­stand­ably, many peo­ple aren’t ex­actly thrilled when they hear the words “You’re go­ing to need an en­doscopy”. How­ever, there are cur­rently few al­ter­na­tives when it comes to di­ag­nos­ing gut dis­or­ders. The team hopes that their tech­nique can be used in place of un­com­fort­able and in­tru­sive cam­eras to check for gut ill­nesses in those feel­ing a bit, er, off colour.

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