At Swansea University in Wales research is being done to develop a breath analyzer that would detect the presence of specific compounds associated with various diseases, including cancer. Perhaps one day the police will be able to issue a DUI and a cancer diagnosis all in one stop.
The system works by analysing all the component chemicals and compounds that make up a patient’s breath. The GCMS-TD [Gas Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry and Thermal Desorption -ed] creates a breath profile, which allows scientists to identify VOCs that may signify the presence of disease.
Diagnostic techniques based on exhaled breath are much less developed than traditional blood or urine analysis techniques, and are not widely utilised in clinical practice. Such techniques have also previously been seen as crude, subjective and unreliable.
However, due to improved analytical methodology, volatile marker-based diagnostics offers new potential in the rapid diagnosis and monitoring of illnesses.
Dr Yousef [Dr Masood Yousef, senior research assistant in the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating at Swansea University -ed] believes that the breath test will provide a more convenient and rapid method for diagnosing serious diseases than blood or urine analysis, and will require minimal medical intervention.
He said: “Breath samples are much easier to collect than blood and urine, for the patient as much as for the person collecting the sample. They can be collected anywhere by people with no medical training, and there are no associated biohazard risks.”
Press release: Research to develop a breath test for cancer and diabetes