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A new technique that identifies the 'chemical signature' of diarrhoea could help doctors diagnose its exact cause in just one hour.

Many different types of infection, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, can trigger diarrhoea and cause severe dehydration. The test works by analysing the diarrhoea's odour and identifying the profile of its chemical constituents, which is unique to each infection.

Diarrhoea kills an estimated 2 million people worldwide every year, mostly in the developing world. Although the analysis equipment is currently bulky and expensive, its developers are confident that costs will fall. And after the initial outlay, the main expense is odour detection sticks, which cost around US 50 cents each and can be reused several times.

Link to full Nature Science Update article