A team of US engineers has developed a new device that significantly reduces the amount of time necessary to diagnose tissue infections.

While tests currently in use take about an hour or more to determine the nature of infections, the device may accomplish it just three and half minutes and that too at a low cost, the study said.

"We have developed a completely different type of system than what exists out on the market," said Dustin Harshman, scientist at US-based Ventana Medical Systems, a global leader in tissue diagnostics.

"We want to see physicians get diagnostic information more rapidly and prescribe better initial therapies," Harshman said.

The device’s novel approach to molecular diagnostics, called DOTS qPCR, is faster, more efficient and less expensive than alternatives currently being used in clinics, the study said.

The doctors’ ability to act quickly and correctly not only makes a difference to the patient’s outcome, it determines whether the infection spreads to other patients in the clinic, and can even contribute to the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

Pathogens and infectious diseases are typically detected using a technique called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR.

The problem is that most PCR tests can take up to an hour or more, and a physician’s decision-making window is typically less than 10 minutes.

The researchers believe that the new technology will transform the operations of hospital emergency rooms, where saving time to diagnosis translates into saving lives.

"It is easy to use, smartphone-integrated and saves money and labour using expensive equipment," Jeong-Yeol Yoon, professor at University of Arizona in the US said.

The findings were detailed online in the journal Science Advances.