The device has been designed by Professor Perena Gouma and his team from The University of Texas at Arlington. The science behind the device relates a feature of the inflammatory response in patients who contracted influenza. This is manifest as the production of several volatile products that come from the alveolar and airway epithelium. These products contain volatile organic compounds and nitric oxide.
The researchers have used these compounds as biomarkers to detect the viral disease. The biological markers are detected by a sensor that has been built into a portable device and tests indicate it can reliably detect flu. The non-invasive method is set to provide a rapid diagnostic tool for medics. The device is designed to show the presence or absence of the virus based on a single exhale.
The appearance of the device is similar to breathalyzers used by police officers. All the patient needs to do is to exhale into the device’s nozzle. The air then runs over semiconductors, similar in design to a household carbon monoxide detector. The key difference between the new device and other sensors is with the configuration and the types of chemicals it is designed to detect.
Assessing the correct biological markers came from a review of medical papers and then confirmed by laboratory testing. Influenza is characterized by higher levels of nitric oxide and ammonia. Now that it has been established the sensor can be configured to detect other illnesses. For example, those who suffer from asthma have increased nitric oxide concentration in their breath; whereas elevated levels of acetone act as a biomarker for diabetes. Digital Journal has previously reported on a different sensor designed to detect diabetes in breath; this acts as a more palatable alternative to a finger-prick blood test.
In a research note, Professor Gouma enthuses: “I think that technology like this is going to revolutionize personalized diagnostics. This will allow people to be proactive and catch illnesses early, and the technology can easily be used to detect other diseases, such as Ebola virus disease, simply by changing the sensors.”
The new device is described in the journal Sensors. The research paper is called “Novel Isoprene Sensor for a Flu Virus Breath Monitor.”
Source: Digital Journal