'Smart toilet' could diagnose ailments with over 80% accuracy

·3-min read
Modern spacious bathroom with bright tiles with toilet and sink. Side view
Scientists are working on a 'smart toilet' that could help diagnose bowel disorders. (Stock, Getty Images)

Most people prefer a little privacy when using the bathroom, but medics may one day be able to analyse the goings-on within your toilet.

Human waste can indicate underlying health issues, with blood or a change in stool "consistency" both linked to bowel cancer.

Amid concerns many people are "dying of embarrassment", scientists from Duke University have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that could be added to a standard toilet.

An individual's stool would be photographed within the toilet's pipes, with the technology then assessing the image for any abnormalities.

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When put to the test, the AI tool accurately diagnosed bowel conditions 85.1% of the time.

This information could then be sent to medics, allowing them to treat issues like Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

Shot of an unrecognizable woman suffering from stomach cramps in her bedroom
Certain conditions can change a person's bowel habits, cause blood to appear in faeces or alter the 'consistency' of their waste. (Stock, Getty Images)

The results were presented at the Digestive Disease Week conference and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Typically, gastroenterologists have to rely on patient self-reported information about their stool to help determine the cause of their gastrointestinal health issues, which can be very unreliable," said co-lead author Dr Deborah Fisher.

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"Patients often can't remember what their stool looks like or how often they have a bowel movement, which is part of the standard monitoring process. 

"The Smart Toilet technology will allow us to gather the long-term information needed to make a more accurate and timely diagnosis of chronic gastrointestinal problems."

The Smart Toilet prototype was "trained" by being exposed to more than 3,000 stool images.

All of the images were scored by gastroenterologists according to the Bristol Stool Scale, a "medical aid" that groups faeces into seven groups according to their consistency.

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When put to the test, the technology was found to accurately classify the stool 85.1% of the time.

It also picked up on the presence of blood with 76.3% accuracy.

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The technology can reportedly be fitted within the pipes of a standard toilet.

After a person passes a stool and flushes the toilet, an image of the faeces is taken within the pipes.

The technology may then flag any warning signs, like an individual being consistently constipated or producing abnormally loose stools.

"We are optimistic about patient willingness to use this technology because it's something that can be installed in their toilet's pipes and doesn't require the patient to do anything other than flush," said co-lead author Dr Sonia Grego. 

"An IBD [inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn's] flare-up could be diagnosed using the Smart Toilet and the patient's response to treatment could be monitored with the technology. 

"This could be especially useful for patients who live in long-term care facilities who may not be able to report their conditions and could help improve initial diagnosis of acute conditions."

It is unclear when the Smart Toilet could be rolled out to the public.

In the meantime, the scientists are developing additional features, like measuring biochemical markers within stools, to provide a better indicator of disease.

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