A recent study conducted by Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich found out that the compounds (metabolites) which are found in the exhaled breath are as unique as the fingerprints of an individual. The metabolites have always been seen as the waste products of the chemistry of someone’s body, but the uniqueness of these metabolites was never shown.
The study suggested that these metabolites could be very useful for the purpose of medical diagnosis, just like that found in the blood or urine. The breath test is said to be non-invasive and their results are also available instantly, which is why a breath test can be convenient, especially for doping tests or anaesthesia.
The lead author of the study, Renato Zenobi explained that in Chinese medicine in the traditional times, tongue, pulse and also the breath are used for diagnosis of ailments.
Earlier researches have also depicted that particular kind of bacteria responsible for lung infections or stomach cancers can be detected using the exhaled breath.
During the study, the team took breath samples of 11 volunteers over four time slots of nine working days. The samples were then run through the mass spectrometer, a device which is used to effectively measure the masses of the chemical compounds in breath. Uniqueness of the exhaled breath was thus detected.
Breath test is non-invasive as well as immediate in nature, which makes it very promising. For example, it could be used for determination of appropriate dosage in anaesthesia.
Now, the team is also working along with the pulmonologists for detection of signs of lung-related ailments such as breath cancer, sarcoidosis and asthma.