SOUTHAMPTON doctors are using a pioneering “string test” to help treat a swallowing disease.

The team at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) are using the Coiled oEsophageal String Test to help monitor and manage a condition which can cause difficulty in swallowing and eating.

The test involves swallowing a thin piece of specially designed coiled string, which is secured to the cheek with tape. 

When it is washed down with water, it unravels and enters the stomach.

After 30 minutes, the string is removed by gently pulling it out of the mouth and sent for analysis.

Patient Eli Rana, 13, from Southampton, was diagnosed with food allergies (egg and dairy) when he was six months old. 

Last year he developed difficulties with swallowing, had to cut his food up into small pieces and suffered from severe reflux when eating.

After seeking advice from the allergy clinic at UHS, he was referred on to gastroenterology where he was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE), an emerging chronic inflammatory condition of the oesophagus (the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach) which affects one in 1,000 people.

He said: “The endoscopy hurts for days after and I have to have time off school, but this is really easy and you hardly feel a thing. I much prefer having it done this way.”

The string collects fluid and proteins from the oesophagus and measures a specific molecule called Eosinophilic Cationic Protein, which gives a good indication of the degree of inflammation and provides clinicians with an accurate reading of the effectiveness of treatment.

Dr Nadeem Afzal, consultant paediatric gastroenterologist at UHS, said: “Biomarker measurement is a new proven revolutionary method to assess inflammation and reduce the need for repeat endoscopies in chronic conditions like Crohn’s Disease and Colitis.

“Now, for the first time in the UK, we can now offer a string test to children with EOE  another chronic condition  which is a simple to perform during a short 30-minute clinic visit, reducing the stress and anxiety for children and their families and the need for repeat endoscopies.”

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