This Artificial Nose knows

By Alice Orszulok

Researchers are working on an artificial nose that may sniff out infections.

It’s not really a nose, but this device can sniff out deadly diseases, which could save thousands of people’s lives.
Image: ShutterstockAn artificial nose can sniff out deadly blood infections.

It’s been suggested that a dog’s keen sense of smell is able to detect cancer in patients, but could scientists develop an artificial nose with the ability to sniff out other types of diseases? The answer is yes—and it’s currently being tested to identify a deadly infection that is a lead cause of death worldwide.

The device’s ability to sniff out deadly bacteria may be able to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Sepsis is an infection of the blood stream, also known as blood poisoning. According to the World Sepsis Declaration, in Australia alone over 6,000 people die of sepsis each year, and about 225,000 people in the US die of the same cause. The disease can arise from a number of different infectious bugs, including meningitis and pneumonia, but it is not caused by the germs themselves. Instead, the blood poisoning is caused by the body’s immune system over-reacting to those microbes and releasing too many chemicals to fight them off. These chemicals cause the body to go into shock, and patients have unpleasant symptoms such as chills, fever, confusion, rapid heartbeat, headache and skin rashes.

Luckily, this new device will be able to tell patients in just 24 hours whether or not they have the deadly infection rather than the usual three days, a difference that could save many lives. The artificial nose consists of a small plastic bottle that contains smell-detecting sensors that can sniff out the dangerous bugs. This is done by injecting a small blood sample into the bottle, which also contains a mixture of nutrients that helps bacteria to grow very quickly. The growing bacteria then release odours that are detected by smell-sensors. Little dots on the nose change colour depending on which bacteria are present, letting doctors know if there is danger or not.

“We have a solution to a major problem with the blood cultures that hospitals have used for more than 25 years to diagnose patients with blood-borne bacterial infections,” said James Carey, a researcher at the National University of Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

The researchers say the device could be made available anywhere in the world, as it’s not costly and very little training is requiered to be able to use it.

Source [Science Daily]

Keyword [Infectious]
Something that is infectious, such as a disease, is easily spread. An infection is caused by germs getting inside your body and multiplying, which can make you feel sick. You can pass on infectious diseases by touching someone, or even coughing or sneezing around them, which is why we always cover our mouths when we sneeze or cough and always wash our hands constantly.