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Breathalyzer Test Provides Earlier PD Detection

August 14, 2018

A new breathalyzer device may provide earlier detection of Parkinson disease (PD), which will change the way the disease is diagnosed as well as improve treatment for patients, according to a study published online in ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

PD is often diagnosed during the advanced stages of the disease. In an effort to find a new way for improved diagnosis, John PM Finberg, PhD, Emeritus professor at Technion and researcher from the Israel Institute of Technology (Haifa, Israel), and colleagues examined the utility of a breath test to be used as a possible solution for detecting PD during the earlier stages of disease progression.

The breathalyzer device used in the study contains an array of 40 sensors based on gold nanoparticles or single-walled carbon nanotubes, and each sensor has a different chemical that binds with volatile molecules in the breath. According to the researchers, the device was able to identify differences in the exhaled breath of patients with PD compared with patients without PD.

Based on these findings, Dr Finberg and his colleagues aimed to see if the device could identify the differences in the breath of patients with early stage PD who had not yet received treatment.   

The researchers identified 29 newly diagnosed PD patients (average age 66.2) who had not started taking medication for the disease. The breath of the 29 patients was compared with 19 control subjects of similar age (average age 61.6).

According to the findings, the breathalyzer device identified early PD with 79% sensitivity, 84% specificity, and 81% accuracy.

The researchers noted that the device still requires further testing to determine if the differences detected in a patient’s breath can continually and accurately detect PD. They explained that if the device proves to be accurate, it may become a useful screening system for at-risk patients who have not seen a specialist.

“Early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is important because it affects the choice of therapy and is subject to a relatively high degree of error,” the researchers explained. “In addition, early detection of PD can potentially enable the start of neuroprotective therapy before extensive loss of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra occurs.”

—Julie Gould

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