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Novel Flu Breath Monitor Can Detect Flu Virus

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Perena Gouma, a professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, has released an article in the journal Sensors that describes her invention of a handheld breath monitor that may potentially the flu virus.

The article, published in January 2017, explains in-depth how the single-exhale sensing gadget works and the research concerned in its creation, which was funded by the National Science Foundation through the Smart Connected Health program. Gouma’s gadget is just like the breathalyzers used by police officers after they suspect a driver of being below the influence of alcohol. A patient readily exhales into the gadget, which uses semiconductor sensors like those in a household carbon monoxide detector.

The difference is that these sensors are specific to the gas detected, but nonetheless cheap, and can isolate biomarkers related to the flu virus and indicate whether or not the sufferer has the flu. The device may be made available in drugstores so that affected people will be identified earlier and take medicine used to treat the flu in its earliest phases. This device could help avoid flu epidemics from spreading, defending individuals and the general public.

Gouma and her group relied on present medical literature to examine the levels of known biomarkers which are in a individual’s breath when afflicted with a certain disease, then utilized that capabilities to discover a mixture of sensors for those biomarkers that is accurate for detecting the flu. For example, individuals who suffer from bronchial asthma have elevated nitric oxide levels in their breath, and acetone is an identified biomarker for diabetes and metabolic processes. When mixed with a nitric oxide and an ammonia sensor, Gouma discovered that the breath monitor may detect the flu virus, probably as well as assessments done in a doctor's office.

The author noted that she considers that technology like this is going to revolutionize personalized diagnostics. This may enable people to be proactive and catch diseases early, and the technology can be used to diagnose other diseases, comparable to Ebola virus infection, by just changing the sensors.  She continues that before they applied nanotechnology to create this device, the only technique to detect biomarkers in a person’s breath was by means of very highly-priced, technical equipment in a lab, operated through expert personnel. Now, this technology would be utilized by ordinary people to rapidly and properly diagnose ailments.

Stathis Meletis, chair of the Materials Science and Engineering Department, commented that Gouma’s study suggests how UTA’s nanotechnology research can have a profound effect on health and the human condition in our communities.

He further added that Dr. Gouma’s creation of a portable, single-exhale device that can be utilized to detect ailments has implications far beyond the laboratory. This shows the impact that nanotechnology has on our daily lives, and has capabilities for functions regarding safety and other predominant areas as well.