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mHealth Sensors Look to Diagnose Diseases From One’s Breath

Israeli researchers have developed an mHealth device, similar to a breathalyzer, than can detect 17 different diseases from a user's 'breathprint.'

By Eric Wicklund

- Israeli researchers are testing an mHealth device that can detect 17 different diseases – including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease – from a single breath.

According to a study published in the American Chemical Society’s NANO newsletter, scientists from the Israel Institute of Technology tested the breathalyzer-like device on more than 1,400 patients from five countries – 813 people who had one of the 17 identified conditions and 591 control cases. The device was found to be correct 86 percent of the time.

The device uses a nanoparticle sensor array called a Na-Nose to collect volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, then applies artificial intelligence to match the “breathprint” with a database of diseases showing the same VOC.

While the device isn’t accurate enough for clinical use, researchers say it could someday be and "affordable, easy-to-use, inexpensive and miniaturized (tool) for personalized screening, diagnosis and follow-up."

"it (could be made) available without the need for invasive and unpleasant procedures, it's not dangerous, and you can sample it again and again if necessary," Professor Hossam Haick, the lead researcher in the project, said in a YouTube video.

Haick says the device could be especially helpful in detecting disease at an early stage, perhaps before they even show any signs of sickness. Early detection of lung cancer, he noted, could improve one’s survival rate from 10 percent to 70 percent.

The mHealth platform would be valuable not only in clinics and doctor’s offices, but in remote and underserved parts of the world where healthcare access is limited.

mHealth tools – either stand-alone devices or sensors affixed to smartphones or inhalers - have long been used to help patients with COPD, asthma and other respiratory issues measure their breathing and help healthcare providers in care management. They’re even being incorporated into specialized vests to help treat people with cystic fibrosis.

In addition, a smartphone app developed by Australia’s ResApp Health Limited is now being tested at the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital. The app is designed to diagnose pneumonia and other common respiratory diseases in children.

“Respiratory issues are the single largest (healthcare condition) for which you need in-person medical care,” Brian Leedman, ResApp’s co-founder, told earlier this year. “Right now you need to be in front of a doctor to be diagnosed. This would change that.”

Dig Deeper:

Factors Behind the Adoption of School-based Telehealth

What Providers Should Know to Improve Patient Access to Healthcare


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