Tags: Electronic | Nose | Sniffs | for | Infection

Electronic Nose Sniffs for Infection

Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM

Every pathogen gives off a unique gaseous mix as it grows, said Christopher Marong, the ITT senior who headed up the team of student researchers. The super nose uses chemical sensors to detect the gas that rises from a bacteria culture.

"The chemical sensors then send an electronic message to a computer program that identifies the pathogen," he told United Press International.

Marong's group used the nose to successfully identify a number of common blood infections. Their findings are published in the Sept. 30 issue of the Journal of Microbiology.

The students decided to test the electronic nose on bacteria after a meeting with laboratory technicians from Cook County Hospital in Chicago. The lab techs mentioned that when working with blood cultures they noticed some pathogens give off a distinctive smell.

Marong said as bacteria grow in culture "they release different gases."

"By sniffing the area above the bacteria, the electronic nose identifies the gas," he added.

Although the nose built by Marong's team still requires bacteria culture - a process that takes 24 to 48 hours in a lab - he said it is likely the process can be speeded up as the nose undergoes further development. The ideal, he said, would be a nose that could analyze a person's breath to detect bacteria.

"But that could take another 10 years or so," he said.

The electronic nose actually is a bulky device that fits into an old computer casing. "Chemical sensors are bulky and difficult to miniaturize," Marong said.

Other researchers using different types of sensory arrays have prototypes of much smaller devices, some of which are designed to be handheld, he said.

Dr. Joseph Stetter, a professor at ITT, said a number of researchers have been experimenting with electronic noses. Some of these devices are used commercially for testing "rancidity of olive oil, perfume scents and analysis of coffee," he told UPI.

Stetter, who was not involved in Marong's study, said electronic noses mimic the human nose in that they "have a sampling system to draw in the odor, a sensor array to detect different odors and an identification system."

When a human inhales, odor is drawn into the nose, which is lined by sensitive cells that detect the odor and send signals to the brain, which identifies it.

Stetter said the advantage of the electronic nose is it can be built to be much more sensitive to smell than its human counterpart. This heightened sensitivity is akin to the superior sniffing ability of dogs.

"Dogs, for example, can be trained to sniff explosives," Stetter said. "Humans can't do that, but an electronic nose could be constructed to do that."

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Every pathogen gives off a unique gaseous mix as it grows, said Christopher Marong, the ITT senior who headed up the team of student researchers. The super nose uses chemical sensors to detect the gas that rises from a bacteria culture. The chemical sensors then send an...
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2001-00-30
Sunday, 30 September 2001 12:00 AM
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