The mention of E. coli probably doesn’t conjure up warm, fuzzy feelings for you, but now, you might have a little more respect for this bacteria! Researchers have engineered E. coli into a cancer- and diabetes-detecting superhero. Sounds a little odd, but that’s not even the strangest part: this bacteria gives a diagnosis by changing the color of urine.

Yes, pee. Researchers modified the bacteria in a way that turns it into a type of sensor. In mouse studies, it passes through the walls of the gut and is attracted to cancer cells in the liver. Once cancer cells are detected, this modified E. coli produces an enzyme that changes the color of the mouse’s urine.

It appears that this is an effective way of detecting cancer in mice early on, and it could be pretty amazing if it also works in humans. The earlier cancer and other diseases can be detected, the better, as it could give doctors and patients more treatment options. Early results are promising; by using these enzyme-producing bacteria in samples of human urine, scientists found that the engineered E. coli accurately detected diabetes 89% of the time.

Can you imagine- a diagnosis based on the color of your pee? Pretty cool. Read more about this research here.

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