Washington: Infectious diseases can spread very rapidly and identifying them promptly takes hours and days. Scientists have now developed a device which can detect infections within minutes.

A portable device, developed by University of Tennessee researchers, can now be used onsite to detect within minutes infectious diseases, pathogens as well as physiological conditions in people and animals.

All that's needed is a droplet of blood to place on a microchip within the device, which is treated with disease-specific antigens. They are a toxin or other foreign substance that induces an immune response in the body - and captures disease - specific antibodies in the blood.

If the antigens and antibodies match, then the device tells the tester that the patient or animal is infected. So far, it has been used to detect tuberculosis in humans and wild animals, as well as Johne's disease in cattle."Time is of the essence in treating infectious diseases," said Wu, associate professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Tennessee, Knoxville, who designed the device with Shigetoshi Eda, associate professor of forestry, wildlife and fisheries at the Tennessee, according to a Tennessee statement.

"This device has the potential to save a lot of lives by saving time in detection. It also saves a lot of money as it is cheaper to detect diseases than the system that is currently being used since we do not have to send them to a lab and have the sample scrutinized by technicians," added Wu. Researchers predict it could be useful in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and cancer as well as pathogens in food materials.