Scientists are assessing whether a fingerprint scanner could test whether patients are on drugs.
The scanner will use a minute amount of sweat found in a patient’s fingerprint which doctors could test for illegal drugs and prescription medication.
Physicians could take a patient's fingerprint using a handheld device. This device will allow doctors to see recent drug-use history after 10 minutes.
Intelligent Fingerprinting, the company founded by academics who used to work at the University of East Anglia, has been awarded a Government grant to improve drug-screening services in hospital accident and emergency and coroners' departments.
The company has been awarded £135,000 to research the feasibility of using the technology for drug screening of emergency patients on admission to hospital.
Business development manager, Dr Paul Yates at Intelligent Fingerprinting, has said: "Many people admitted to A&E are under the influence of drugs - either legally prescribed medicines or drugs of abuse. But in an emergency situation clinicians may be unaware of a patient's medical or drug-use history.
"Without this knowledge there is a risk that medical staff will administer treatment which could be harmful, or even fatal. This situation is made worse if the patient is confused or unable to speak, or elderly and suffering with a condition that affects memory.
Dr. Yates continued to claim: "Our technique for detecting the presence of drugs in a person's bloodstream by analysing a simple fingerprint could help doctors to make better informed decisions about appropriate treatments."
The company has also been given another award to trial the technology for drugs testing by coroners. The project was awarded a £290,000 grant from Biomedical Catalyst, a Government-funded programme operated by the Medical Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board.
"It is sometimes necessary to carry out a drug screen to establish how someone has died. This can be a time-consuming and costly process. By working with coroners, we will test the potential of using Intelligent Fingerprinting as a tool to help determine a possible cause of death more quickly and cost effectively." added Dr. Yates.
Intelligent Fingerprinting was one of 32 projects to receive a share of £39 million in funding from the government-backed Biomedical Catalyst. The awards were made to accelerate the development of innovative solutions to healthcare challenges.
“Our funding success confirms the potential importance of developing a non-invasive and rapid drug screening technique which can be used at the point of care,” said Dr Yates.
“Securing Biomedical Catalyst funding for these two important projects is a significant step towards further development of our drug screening technology and supports the company’s recent growth driven by backing from international investors.”