University of Vermont scientists are making headway on developing a diagnostic that could analyze a person's breath to diagnose different types of lung bacteria.
The BBC reports on the findings, which are detailed in the Journal of Breath Research.
To pursue the work, the researchers infected mice with bacteria common to lung infections and then analyzed their exhaled breath, looking for something called "volatile organic compounds" as well as different bacterium strains. Their technique: secondary electrospray ionization mass spectrometry.
And by comparing breath data from both infected and uninfected mice, they found big differences between the two--reaching the all-important "statistically significant" level of contrast. What's more, their breath diagnostic successfully identified two species of bacteria used for the trial and also two different strains of one of the bacteria.
If the test process works in humans, the benefits could be big. Current diagnostic work for lung bacteria infections takes weeks, the BBC notes, as clinicians take a sample, grow it in the lab, test it and then see how it behaves once attacked with antibiotics. Breath diagnostics, they say, would be quicker and noninvasive, leading to a diagnosis within minutes. Don't count on such a test to reach the marketplace just yet, however. Human trials may not generate the same results, and researchers don't yet know how consistent the process could be.