Scientists have developed a new test they say can detect meningitis within an hour, London's Daily Telegraph reported.

The test uses a sample of blood, saliva or other secretion and can detect all strains of meningococcal bacteria much faster than traditional tests — which take 24 to 48 hours, and are more expensive and harder to obtain.

The Meningitis Research Foundation funded the team of scientists who developed the small device, which resembles a printer, and is now in trials by the A&E Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast.

“The first symptoms of meningococcal infections are the same as a simple viral infection, making it difficult to diagnose in the early stages,” said Mike Shields, professor at Queens University Belfast. “Speedy identification of the cause of infection can enable doctors to make life-saving decisions about the treatment of patients.”

Meningococcal meningitis is a life-threatening infection that most often affects children. Five to 10 percent of patients die within 24 to 48 hours after symptoms begin to show, according the World Health Organization’s website. Early detection is crucial to preventing the infection’s life-altering effects, which include brain damage, hearing loss and learning disability, and occur in 10 to 20 percent of survivors.

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