While a colonoscopy is an important tool for detecting abnormalities in the large intestine (colon), these exams are no joy for patients. If you aren’t familiar with what happens in a colonoscopy, it basically involves a long tube with a tiny video camera at the tip that is inserted into the rectum to view the inside of the colon.
Fortunately, scientists have come up with a far less invasive way to inspect the colon. This alternative comes in the form of a swallowable pill that acts like a colonoscopy, except that instead of looking at the colon with a camera, it takes samples of gut bacteria.
The tool is a drug-like capsule that passively weasels through the gut without needing a battery. A pill version of a colonoscopy is already commercially available to view areas of the colon that a traditional colonoscopy can’t see, but neither tool can sample bacteria.
Your gut bacteria can say a lot about you, such as why you’re diabetic or how you respond to certain drugs, but scientists can see only so much of the gastrointestinal tract. What comes out of you is just a small sample of these bacteria, without indicating where they came from in the digestive system.
The technology could also move throughout the whole GI tract, not just the colon. This tract, in addition to the colon, includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, and rectum. Essentially, this tool would make it possible to conduct a “gut-oscopy.”
And the great thing is that creating such a bacteria-sampling capsule is much cheaper than a typical colonoscopy, with each capsule costing only about a dollar.