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Exhaling once could be enough to diagnose dangerous diseases in the future
Sometimes diagnosing diseases is extremely difficult. But researchers have now found that a so-called breath analyzer only needs a single breath to reliably diagnose 17 different diseases. These include, for example, lung cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
Scientists found in one study that one breath in a breath analyzer was enough to diagnose 17 different diseases. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "ACS Nano".
Doctors examine the breath of 1,400 subjects
For their study, the researchers examined around 1,400 subjects in five different countries. The respiratory system was able to identify the subjects' diseases with an accuracy of 86 percent. Every illness has its own breath, so to speak, the doctors explain.
Breath analysis is a very old method
The breath analyzer examines volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to detect possible diseases. The testing of so-called VOCs is not a new approach. As early as 400 BC, doctors knew that the smell of physical emissions from patients can help in the diagnosis. For example, the smell of stool and urine from infants of nobles was examined.
Construction of the device for breath analysis
VOCs are found in feces, blood and other physical substances. Exhaling breath exhalation is the cheapest, easiest, and least invasive option, experts say. To examine breath for diagnosis, the researchers developed an analysis device that has two so-called nanolayers. One contains carbon, the other does not.
The carbon-free layer contained modified gold nanoparticles and a network of nanotubes. Both provide electrical conductivity, the experts explain. Meanwhile, the layer of carbon worked as a sensor layer to hold the exhaled VOCs, the scientists say. When a person breathes into the respiratory system, that person's VOCs reacted with the organic sensor layer. This in turn changes the electrical resistance of the inorganic sensors. By measuring this resistance, the researchers were then able to determine which VOCs were present.
Different VOCs indicate different diseases
There are hundreds of known VOCs in exhaled breath. However, only 13 of them are needed to distinguish between 17 different diseases, the experts explain. For example, the VOC called nonanal is associated with ovarian cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and breast cancer. The VOC isoprene is associated with chronic liver diseases, kidney diseases and diabetes, the experts add.
VOCs cannot differentiate individually between diseases
Each VOC is subject to several conditions. These results support our finding that no single VOC can differentiate between different diseases, the scientists explain.
Subjects were all from China, Israel, France, Latvia and the United States
When the breath analyzer was completed, the researchers tested it on 813 people who had one of 17 diseases. There were also 591 people in the control group. All participants came from China, Israel, France, Latvia or the United States, the authors say.
Artificial intelligence compares VOCs with databases
The scientists then used artificial intelligence to compare the VOCs with a database every breath. This contained diseases that had the same so-called VOC concentration patterns. A diagnosis could then be delivered.
More research is needed
During the analysis, the researchers did not know what diseases the participants had. The team also checked the results using another method. The new breath analyzer is not yet available on the market. First, further tests and better accuracy are required, the authors explain. Nevertheless, the results of the study are an encouraging development. (as)