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This breathalyzer test diagnoses bacterial infections

Posting in Science

Breathalyzer tests don’t just reveal drunk drivers these days.

Thanks to the work of scientists from the University of Vermont, breath analysis tests may soon be able to diagnosis a wide variety of bacterial infections. Unlike today’s traditional tests, the group’s breathalyzer could determine whether or not a patient has a certain infection, such as tuberculosis or pneumonia, in just minutes.

In order to develop the simple yet effective breath test, the scientists studied volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the breath of mice and differentiated between various strains of bacteria infecting the rodents’ lungs.

The researchers then infected the mice with two different strains of bacteria common in lung infections. When the group tested the mice 24 hours later by using a technique called “secondary electrospray ionization mass spectrometry,” they found that there was a significant difference between the breath profiles of the mice infected with the bacteria and those uninfected. The test was even able to differentiate between the two bacteria strains.

While the breathalyzer has only been used in mice so far, the scientists believe the test could someday become a common diagnostic tool in the doctor’s office.

Read more about the group’s breath analysis test in this month’s Journal of Breath Research.

[via Smithsonian]

Image: Breathalyze.com/Flickr

— By on January 13, 2013, 11:09 AM PST

Sarah Korones

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sarah Korones is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for Psychology Today and Boston's Weekly Dig. She holds a degree from Tufts University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure