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Breath test identifies bacteria's fingerprint

Scientists have identified the chemical 'fingerprints' given off by specific bacteria when present in the lungs, potentially allowing for a quick and simple breath test to diagnose infections such as tuberculosis.

Publishing their study today in the Journal of Breath Research, the researchers have successfully distinguished between different types of bacteria, as well as different strains of the same bacteria, in the lungs of mice by analysing the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in exhaled breath. It is hoped that a simple breath test could reduce the diagnosis time of lung infections from days and weeks to just minutes. Co-author of the paper, Jane Hill, from the University of Vermont, said: "Traditional methods employed to diagnose bacterial infections of the lung require the collection of a sample that is then used to grow bacteria. The isolated colony of bacteria is then biochemically tested to classify it and to see how resistant it is to antibiotics. "This whole process can take days for some of the common bacteria and even weeks for the causative agent for tuberculosis. Breath analysis would reduce the time-to-diagnosis to just minutes".

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