An "artificial nose" capable of detecting the odor from germs that lead to blood poisoning could help save many lives and reduce medical costs, a conference heard on Sunday.
Scientists who developed the "nose" said it can show within 24 hours whether a patient's blood has bacteria that cause sepsis, a gain of up to two days over conventional methods.
"The current technology involves incubating blood samples in containers for 24 to 48 hours just to see if bacteria are present," said James Carey, a researcher at the National University of Kaohsiung in Taiwan.
"It takes another step and 24 hours or more to identify the kind of bacteria in order to select the right antibiotic to treat the patient. By then, the patient may be experiencing organ damage, or may be dead from sepsis."
Unveiled at a conference in Indianapolis of the American Chemical Society, the "nose" entails a palm-sized plastic bottle filled with a liquid nutrient that helps bacteria to grow.
Attached to the inside of the bottle is a small array of chemical dots that change color in reaction to the odors released by the telltale bacteria.