Researchers at the University of Texas have invented a prototype breathalyser that is capable of detecting influenza during its early stages. The breathalyser works by detecting biomarkers, that are expected to be present when infected with influenza, using smart sensors. These biomarkers include nitric oxide and ammonia. This particular prototype breathalyser is designed to detect the flu virus infect and so allow the ability to monitor health and potentially share this data real time with a physician.
The device was created by Perena Gouma, Professor in Texas University’s Materials Science and Engineering department.
She is quoted as saying “What I have created — together with my research team and research collaborators working on this project — is a single exhale, portable, handheld, potentially wireless, battery-operated, inexpensive, breathalyser that relies on gas-selective sensing elements, and which detects the presence and monitors the concentration of biomarkers in breath that signal a disease”.
“This particular breathalyser detects flu virus infection,” she continued. “This is expected to be a personalized diagnostics tool available over the counter and it will allow the individuals to monitor their health, with the option of sharing the data obtained with their physician in real time.”
Professor Gouma has previously been the inventor of breathalysers for other conditions including asthma detection, diabetes monitoring and determining the end point hemodialysis (filtering waste products from the blood). These breathalysers have many advantages including the ability to swap out sensors to allow for the monitoring and detection of different conditions as well as providing portability to what would normally be lab based tests.
This provides obvious medical benefits for developing countries that require portable tests for conditions such as Ebola or Malaria. It could also help prevent outbreaks by detection and early prevention of diseases.
While this technology is certainly exceptionally promising the breathalyser Gouma has invented still requires clinical trials and will likely not be seen commercially for quite some time.