According to a study in the Journal of Breath Research, a new type of breath analysis technology can be used to diagnose bacterial lung infections and other diseases.
When an individual respires, alveoli in the lung release certain chemical signatures. These chemical signatures have already been used to diagnose lung diseases like cancer and asthma.
Bacterial lung infections are difficult to diagnose with traditional medical technology. In some cases, diagnosing a bacterial lung infection through traditional means can take days or weeks. With traditional diagnostics, physicians must collect a lung sample for culturing. The cultured bacteria is then tested with a variety of techniques to determine its classification. With a breath-based diagnostic, physicians will be able to diagnose bacterial lung infections in minutes.
In the study, mice were infected with two strains of bacteria commonly associated with lung infections. After doing this, researchers looked for volatile organic compounds in the test subjects’ exhalation. Results from the study show that certain organic compounds are correlated with different bacterial lung infections.
Richard Hubbard is a professor at Nottingham City Hospital. He teaches respiratory epidemiology and serves as a spokesman for the non-profit British Lung Foundation. In prepared remarks, he said, "Breath analysis is an emerging field and is likely to take off across the board. It could be a very useful tool for children with cystic fibrosis, for example, as a guide on how to treat them.” Hubbard also stated that breath analysis technology is already in use for diagnosing childhood asthma.