A new test which can identify potential cases of meningitis much quicker than currently possible has been developed by scientists.
As it stands, tests for meningococcal disease – which can lead to meningitis and blood poisoning – can take up to 48 hours for results to come back.
But a new diagnosis method developed by experts is able to provide results within an hour.
Dozens of lives might potentially be saved every year, researchers believe, as the test could prevent children with meningococcal disease being wrongly sent home.
Alternatively, it could prevent children being admitted for treatment unnecessarily.
Researchers say the new diagnostic tool, which has been assessed for two years, is as accurate as standard testing methods.
Dr James McKenna, lead researcher, said: “The LAMP test enables doctors to efficiently diagnose meningococcal septicaemia within an hour.
“The LAMP diagnosis could significantly reduce the number of patients taking medication unnecessarily as well as preventing needless anxiety to patients and their families.”
Dr Tom Waterfield, assessing the practicality of testing, said: “We know that scientifically the test is effective but we now need the evidence base to confirm whether it is feasible for clinicians to carry out this test as part of their role before an informed decision can be taken.
“As part of this study, we will evaluate the feasibility of clinicians using the LAMP test in a hospital setting by assessing any potential barriers and ease of use.”
The findings come as health officials have urged students to get vaccinated to protect themselves against meningitis before starting university.