A £10 piece of medical equipment has gone on trial designed to accelerate the detection of a potentially fatal lung disease.
It is hoped the lateral-flow device (LFD), could help offer early diagnosis for the thousands of people struck down with invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, a disease which attacks those with immunodeficiency such as cancer patients and bone marrow transplant recipients.
Inventor Professor Chris Thornton, a scientist with the University of Exeter, said the device would potentially reduce the high rates of mortality and morbidity associated with the disease and enable better use of costly and toxic anti-fungal drugs.
He said: "Individuals with invasive pulmonary aspergillosis are often suffering from complex medical conditions and the symptoms, which include raised temperature, breathlessness, chest pain and fatigue, could be attributable to a number of other conditions.
"At present, it can take several days to identify the disease correctly due to the lack of accurate diagnostic tests, and the patient's health deteriorates significantly in the absence of appropriate treatment.
"The low cost, speed, ease-of-use and compatibility of the new device with standard hospital procedures means that the disease can be quickly and accurately monitored at the point-of-care using a simple blood test or with fluids collected during lung biopsy."
Invasive aspergillosis is a leading cause of death in acute leukaemia and bone marrow transplant patients, accounting for more than 200,000 life-threatening infections each year, with an associated mortality rate of up to 90%.
The new device - which resembles a pregnancy test but uses a small blood sample - will cost health authorities £10 per test and will fit into routine hospital practices.
It is currently being trialled on leukaemia patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital .