Coming Soon: Disease Breathalyzer?

New test proves promising in mice

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 17, 2013 3:25 PM CST

(Newser) – What if you could diagnose a disease as easily as you could tell whether someone were driving drunk? That possibility is on the table thanks to work from a group of researchers from the University of Vermont, who are working on a breathalyzer test that can detect forms of bacteria, Smithsonian Magazine reports. According to a newly published paper, the device has been successful in detecting Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus in mice.

Researchers theorized that these lung infections would give the mice unique volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and they were right—they could not only tell that the mice had a lung infection, but which bacteria had caused it. The technology would be a massive leap forward from current bacterial-detection methods, which take weeks to grow samples harvested from a patient's lungs. "Breath analysis would reduce the time-to-diagnose to just minutes."

A handheld breathalyzer is seen in this file photo.
A handheld breathalyzer is seen in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Smart Start, Inc.)
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