A simple, non-invasive breath test being developed by researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (Israel), in collaboration with scientists from the University of Cambridge (UK), could enable doctors to detect and diagnose Parkinson’s disease, allowing for earlier treatment. The team’s findings were recently published in Parkinsonism & Related Disorders.
Parkinson’s is a progressive illness in which there is a gradual loss of nerve cells from the brain. There is currently no conclusive individual test for the disease, with clinicians basing diagnosis on a combination of symptoms and the results of tests, such as brain scans. By this stage, however, the disease may be fairly advanced.
The researchers believe that degradation caused by the disease may leave a chemical footprint that could be detected in exhaled breath for diagnostic purposes. In a small trial of 57 individuals, some with and some without Parkinson’s, it was demonstrated that the test could identify those with the disease by considering the distinctive pattern of volatile organic compounds in their exhaled air.
Based on these findings, it is thought there may also be the potential to distinguish between subtypes of the diseases by examining the presence and quantity of different volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath.
“A breath test would be really appealing because it’s non-invasive, non-painful and can be done in seconds,” commented Simon Stott, a researcher from the University of Cambridge who will be working alongside the scientists from the Israel Institute of Technology as they plan a larger study.
The researchers acknowledge that there are still many years of work required before the test could have a clinical application. The next study, which will involve approximately 200 volunteers in the UK, will also involve investigation of molecules found in breath that could represent new drug targets.
Source: Breath test for Parkinson’s disease.