Flu 'breathalyzer' detects virus, not alcohol

A professor with the University of Texas at Arlington's Materials Science and Engineering Department has developed a breathalyzer of sorts that works by detecting the flu virus rather than alcohol. Such a breath monitor, as it is properly called, requires a patient to exhale into the mouthpiece, at which point sensors look for biomarkers pertaining to the flu virus, revealing whether the patient is ill.

It's well known that certain medical conditions and illnesses present biomarkers on the breath, such as the presence of acetone in diabetes or nitric oxide on the breath of asthmatics. The same is true for those who have the flu virus — Professor Perena Gouma and her team used existing medical knowledge about flu biomarkers to develop the breath monitor.

The team used relatively inexpensive sensors able to detect these biomarkers, and the end result is a product that may, one day, be found in doctors' offices and even over-the-counter at pharmacies. Such a device may help prevent the spread of flu virus by making it both simple and inexpensive to diagnose an individual.

The technology could be adapted to detect other diseases, too, including more daunting ones like Ebola, by changing the sensors found within the breath monitor. There aren't any stated plans to bring this product to market at this time, but Gouma expresses excitement about the possibility, saying, 'I think that technology like this is going to revolutionize personalized diagnostics.'

SOURCE: University of Texas in Arlington