A couple of brilliant engineers at the University of Warwick along with some doctors at the Heart of England hospital in Birmingham, UK, have come up with a Electronic Nose, trained specifically to sniff out infections. It was developed to tackle outbreaks of an antibiotic-resistant superbug called MRSA, which would usually take a 2-3 day-long culture test to detect (and by then, the infection might have spread, or gotten worse). They've since developed a 2-hour DNA test for it, but with this E-Nose, it'll only take 15 minutes to spot that bug. It analyzes gas samples over an array of electrodes and assigns a particular "smell print" to a certain recognized pattern. About the size of a desktop PC, this probably doesn't look like any nose you've ever seen, and it costs a bundle as well — about 60,000 British pounds. There are some downsides though; the E-nose can't distinguish between the superbug and a MRSA-susceptible strain, which suggests the E-nose is really just for a quick screening before an actual test. Scientists hope to develop the technology further so that it'll also detect pneumonia in intensive care patients.
E-nose to sniff out hospital superbugs [New Scientist]