Scientists have developed a sensor that can help physicians detect early stages of diseases even before severe symptoms begin.

The study, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, says the sensor will enable physicians detect diseases with the naked eye.

The research team from the Imperial College London said that this new sensor is ten times better than the currently used tests to detect diseases like HIV and prostate cancer. The team added that the sensor is fairly cheap and so it can be used in developing countries where people can't afford expensive tests.

"Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper," Molly Stevens from Imperial College London, who led the research, told Reuters.

In the study, researchers tested the effectiveness of the sensor by detecting the presence of a biomarker called p24 in blood samples. The presence of this biomarker shows an HIV infection.

Nature materials had earlier published a study where Molly Stevens and colleagues had tested a nanosensor's effectiveness in detecting Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).

The sensor, that is currently being studied, works by detecting the presence of biomarker in the blood serum in a disposable container. If the biomarker reacts with the sensor, the reaction ends in nano-particles getting clumped in the solution that give a blue color. On the other hand, a reddish hue in the solution indicates a negative result.

Researchers say that this sensor can detect small amounts of viruses in the body and is better than Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) test used to detect HIV.

"Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce," Stevens said, Reuters reports.

In the next stage of the study, the research team will be working with nonprofit health organizations that could help the team start manufacturing and distributing the sensors to low-income countries, a press release said.

"This test could be significantly cheaper to administer, which could pave the way for more widespread use of HIV testing in poorer parts of the world," said Dr Roberto de la Rica , co-author of the study from the Department of Materials at Imperial College London, BBC reports.