Sunday, 20 April 2014
masthead+quote+image
Advanced search

Breathalyser could be used by doctors to diagnose lung cancer

Breathalyser technology able to rapidly diagnose tuberculosis and lung cancer could one day find its way into doctors’ surgeries, thanks to work carried out by engineers from Siemens in Germany.

The system, developed by a team from the company’s Corporate Technology research base, uses a quadrupole mass spectrometer to analyse the molecules in a patient’s breath, which can be reliable indicators of a range of different medical conditions. 

The device works by applying an electrical charge to the substances in the breath and accelerating them through an electrical field that affects their trajectory. Particles of different weights are deflected to different degrees and thus land at different places on the detectors, enabling clinicians to build up a molecular ‘fingerprint’ of the patient’s breath. 

The team is particularly excited about the potential use of technology to diagnose tuberculosis and lung cancer. Early detection of tuberculosis could help reduce the spread of a disease that affected 8.7 million people around the world last year, while more rapid diagnosis of lung cancer should improve patient survival rates.  

Following promising preliminary results from tests using breath samples from cancer and tuberculosis patients, the group is now about to begin larger clinical trials.

Last year The Engineer reported that a similar breath analysis device was being trialled by a team at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

You can also read our feature on diagnostic breathalysers here.

Readers' comments (1)

  • My great uncle was a GP working in Glasgow in the 50s and 60s. He was reputed to be able to smell the presence of TB in a house so I'm surprised that some form of odour detection hasn't been developed sooner.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory
Mandatory

Related images

My saved stories (Empty)

You have no saved stories

Save this article

Digital Edition

The Engineer March Digital Issue

Poll

The roundtable feature in our current issue looks at issues surrounding graduate recruitment into engineering. Which of the solutions proposed in the feature would make the biggest contribution to boosting the number of graduates finding jobs in engineering and remaining there?

Previous Poll

Europe's largest tidal array in the Pentand Firth off Orkney will eventually generate up to 86MW of power. What will it take for tidal energy to make an appreciable contribution to the UK's energy needs?

Read and comment on the results here