Detecting diseases non-invasively by sampling exhaled breath is a growing field. Previously, we featured Owlstone Medical, who have developed breath sampling devices to store breath samples for later analysis along with an integrated unit for the detection of lung cancer biomarkers. Recent research on breath testing has suggested that viral infections, such as influenza, might be also be diagnosable using breath samples. Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a prototype breathalyzer that could detect signs of influenza infection on a patient’s breath.
Influenza epidemics are a worry, with the continued mutation of the virus and the emergence of new strains. Confirming influenza infections rapidly and accurately would be very useful to prevent the spread of flu epidemics, but current testing methods are sometimes unreliable or require expensive and time-consuming laboratory tests.
The breathalyzer aims to exploit the fact that people infected with influenza release a specific mix of volatile organic compounds and nitric oxide in their breath because of inflammation in their lungs. The device is inexpensive to make and is miniaturized, so that it could potentially be used by someone in their own home. It could also be used to transmit data remotely to clinicians.
The breathalyzer contains three sensors – for isoprene, ammonia and nitric oxide. As an influenza infection progresses, the levels of these substances released in the breath can change, meaning that the device could potentially be used to monitor disease progression over time.
The breathalyzer is currently at the prototype stage and is still under development. The researchers hope that the device might be used as a platform technology, where changing the included sensors could allow the detection of the hallmarks of other viral infections such as those of the Ebola virus.
Study in journal Sensors: Novel Isoprene Sensor for a Flu Virus Breath Monitor…