Handheld breathalyzer detects flu early

Configuring a breath monitor's gas-selective sensors to monitor the user's biomarkers can help prevent influenza, and possibly Ebola.

February 08, 2017

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Configuring a breath monitor's gas-selective sensors to monitor the user's biomarkers can help prevent influenza, and possibly Ebola.

Source: University of Texas Arlington

Preventing a bad case of the flu could potentially be just a breath away with researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington developing a handheld monitor that detects influenza from a single breath.

In a medical report published on January 2017, Materials Science and Engineering Department professor Pelagia-Irene Gouma explains how patients who have contracted influenza are found to have a high amount of volatile organic compounds, ammonia and nitric oxide in their systems. In much the same way that a regular breathalyzer senses alcohol, this breath monitor has been modified to detect the aforementioned biomarkers instead of alcohol. With nanobiotechnology, it is now possible to diagnose diseases such as Ebola early by just tweaking the sensors to pinpoint specific biomarkers.

Currently, clinical trials are on-going, and commercial options are being explored. Once made available in drug stores, the handheld monitor will provide a more convenient, inexpensive and non-invasive screening process to diagnose flu in its early stages and prevent epidemics. It will also avoid delays in treatments and unnecessary healthcare costs.

This pocket flu detector is not the first of Gouma's foray into using nanobiotechnology to provide a more personal diagnostics tool to monitor health. In the last few years, she has also developed breathalyzer-like prototypes for detecting asthma and diabetes.

Nanobiotechnology is proving to be a key influencer in the medical industry in the future with companies such as IBM following suit, developing a lab-on-a-chip technology that will help catch and prevent cancer.

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