Researchers at Queen's University Belfast and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have developed a pioneering new test for meningitis which can detect the deadly disease in just one hour.
Usual methods for identifying the infection - which can kill within hours - can take up to two days.
Professor Mike Shields from Queen's University said the new test's major advantage was its speed: 'The new LAMP (loop mediated isothermal amplification) test has the potential to be a simple bedside test that is rapid, cheap, easy to use and doesn't require laboratory trained staff. Currently doctors will admit and treat with antibiotics any child that they suspect of having meningococcal disease while they await the traditional test results that take between 24 and 48 hours.'
Meningitis is most prevalent in children under five, with babies under one being particularly affected. Between 2008 and 2009 in England and Wales, there were just over 1,100 cases of bacterial meningitis. Sufferers can be left with life-changing conditions such as deafness and cerebral palsy.
'Speedy identification of the cause of infection can enable doctors to make life-saving decisions about the treatment of patients,' said Professor Shields, 'If we have the results within an hour we will be able to start the appropriate course of treatment right away.'
What do you think?
Should all hospitals now be using this method of detection as standard?
Have you had to wait days for a diagnosis for your child?