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'Electronic nose' can sniff feces to detect bacterial infection, researchers say

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A research team has created an “electronic nose” they say can detect deadly infections by sniffing feces.

The study, published by Metabolomics, sought to determine whether different strains of Clostrium difficle (C-diff) -- a highly infectious bacteria that causes diarrhea, temperature and stomach cramps -- have different chemistry.

Researchers used 10 strains of C-diff and found that the tool was able to differentiate between them based on the chemicals released, the BBC reported.

“By smelling different strains of C-difficile, we could tell which are good and which are potentially bad, which leads to the question, ‘Can you screen patients?’” professor Paul Monks, a member of the University of Leicester research team told The BBC.

The researchers believe the tool will help find a better understanding about the chemistry of bacteria and why some cause disease while others do not.

“We’ve shown it is possible to do it in the lab – the next thing we need to do is in bedpans. We can [put the e-nose] on the side of bedpan washers as you start the cycle, sniff it and then say, ‘You may want to look at that patient,’” Monks told the BBC.

In 2012, the death toll from C-diff infections in England and Wales reached 1,646, according to the BBC.

Researchers believe the findings will help doctors diagnose a patient and provide the proper treatment, possibly leading to a decrease in high mortality rates from infections.