Cheap New Sensor Diagnoses Infection by Smell

And in even more medical sensor news, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a low-cost method of detecting bacterial infection using an artificial nose. To sniff out the particular strain of bacterium, a broad-sensitivity array is attached to the underside of a Petri dish lid and a sample of the patient’s blood is swabbed onto a standard agar medium. The¬†36 points of cross-reactive pigment ¬†change color when they detect specific chemicals–the by-products of bacterial growth.

Each detectable strain carries its own pattern on the array, which is read by running the cultured plates on a flatbed scanner.

By “sniffing out” the invading microbes, this process would cut standard blood culturing process from around 72 hours to three or so, and costs far less in terms of both resource and labor while also providing a much-needed improvement in diagnostic turn-around. The technology is currently being tested for accuracy in detecting lung cancer and sinus infection using breath analysis.

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