This New Hand-held Device Can Detect Flu Virus by Analyzing Patient's Breath

Feb 02, 2017 08:07 AM EST

A professor from the University of Texas in Arlington has developed a new hand-held breath monitor capable of detecting the flu virus with just a single exhale.

The new device, described in a paper published in the journal Sensors, acts like the breathalyzer used by the police to detect alcohol. The user will just exhale into the device then the semiconductor sensors will search for specific biomarkers associated with the flu virus.

"I think that technology like this is going to revolutionize personalized diagnostics," said Perena Gouma, the lead scientist in the Institute for Predictive Performance Measurement at the UTA Research Institute and inventor of the new device, in a press release. "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."

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For the new device, Gouma and her team reviewed existing medical literature to determine the quantities of known biomarkers present in a person's breath when afflicted with a particular disease. The researchers used three different sensors capable of detecting biomarkers related with the flu.

Unlike other diagnostic tools that use a single biomarker for a single disease, such as nitric oxide for asthma and acetone for diabetes, the new device uses three sensors that detect nitric oxide, ammonia and isoprene. The researchers claim that the combination of the three biomarkers mean that the patient has flu. The new device is believed to detect the flu virus, possible as well as tests done in a doctor's office.

The researchers hope that their new hand-held breathalyzers for the flu could make it to the drug store. If the device becomes available to the public, it could help people to diagnose and treat flu in its earliest stages. The device could also prevent flu epidemics from spreading, protecting both individuals as well as the public health.

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