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Researchers develop screening tool for traumatic brain injuries

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Researchers in the US have developed a field-ready screening tool for traumatic brain injury (TBI).

The Advanced Military Measure of Olfaction (AMMO) kit includes an array of scents, deployable anywhere from the battlefield to the football field, to help screen for TBIs in minutes.

The kit was developed by a team at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

Project lead and SwRI Senior Research Engineer, Kreg Zimmern, said: “The AMMO test kit is not intended as a diagnostic test but as a screening tool.”

The kit includes six sealed vials that release a range of odours, such as fruity and spicy aromas.

When squeezed, a test vial turns blue to indicate a smell has been released and is ready for use.

Patients are asked to identify the odour from four possible choices on an attached card.

Answers are documented onto a separate answer card; the correct answers are hidden behind a sticker.

Research shows failing to identify the scents correctly correlates highly with positive results for TBI on an MRI exam.

Zimmern said: “Someone exposed to a blast on the battlefield could be screened immediately with AMMO instead of waiting for the onset of signs or symptoms of TBI.

“The inability to identify the scents could be used as rationale to justify an MRI.”

AMMO is undergoing stability studies to determine how long the kit can be stored and still be effective.

SwRI is developing AMMO in compliance with relevant FDA and ISO guidelines. It’s the only olfactory test kit to undergo such rigorous controls.

Zimmern said: “The kit is inexpensive, compact, has no special storage conditions and doesn’t need electricity.

“This makes it a potential screening tool in emergency rooms as well as at workplaces, nursing homes and youth, collegiate and professional sports games.”

While AMMO doesn’t require any specialised training to administer, the results can inform the decision-making process for first responders and doctors.

“Zimmern said: “Traumatic brain injuries can have profound and sometimes long-term effects.

“They can dramatically change the course of lives.

“Plus, they are also notoriously difficult to diagnose and multiple TBIs can be catastrophic.”

Image: Southwest Research Institute

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