"Electronic nose" can detect TB

Scientists and engineers in India and the United States are collaborating to develop a handheld device that can detect tuberculosis in symptomatic patients.

The International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi and Next Dimension Technologies, located in California, are working on what is being described as an "electronic nose" that can track the biomarkers of the prevalent and often deadly infection, according to

The project was recently awarded a two year, $950,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop and later test the technology.

"The first phase of the grant will be used for collecting biomarkers from people, including TB patients from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Sensors in the device will be trained to identify disease molecules," Ranjan Nanda, a lead researcher, said, reports.

The researchers are currently working with sensors developed in California to track biomarkers in the breath. They believe these biomarkers hold the key to the early identification and could help to make time-consuming sputum testing a thing of the past.

"We hope to take the concept of the Electronic Nose to the next level by developing and testing a prototype of the hand-held, battery-powered device," Nanda said, reports. "Our goal is to make the Electronic Nose widely available in poor, remote areas where tuberculosis often breeds and spreads, devastating so many lives.

"The prototypes will be ready by October 2013 and we expect the electronic nose will be ready for use by December 2013."

Some estimates place the number of lives that could be saved annually around the world because of early TB identification and treatment at close to 400,000. TB is considered second only to HIV/AIDS as the world’s most deadly infectious disease.