Lasers used to identify pathogens

Advances in laser technology may soon allow scientists to identify dangerous bacteria in samples of blood, water or food in a single minute.
Steven Rehse, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario, said that the use of lasers can improve how sick people with infections are diagnosed and treated, changing how outbreaks are controlled and identified, the Montreal Gazette reports. Rehse began the concept when he read numerous accounts in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks of hazmat teams waiting nervously for lab results to find out if the white powdery substances were anthrax or not.
"Why? Why can't we do it now?" Rehse remembers thinking, according to the Montreal Gazette. "Why does it take days and weeks? Can't we just right now say if it's safe or not? That should be doable."
Rehse has taken part in five years of painstaking experiments to make progress on that concept. His dream for the future is to develop a tabletop machine that would allow medical staff to insert a liquid sample and promptly receive a reading of exactly what bacteria it contains. The current method of identifying bacteria pathogens requires sending samples to a lab, which can take 24 to 72 hours to grow a sample large enough to test. Rehse's laser method identifies the bacteria by determining its atomic composition and comparing it to a database he's compiled.
"It definitely works, there's no doubt it works," Rehse said, according to the Montreal Gazette. "Nothing has made it fail yet."
Rehse's next step is to find institutions or companies that are interested in funding the development of his machine. He would like to get his device into a hospital and start testing specimens in a real-life situation.