Spectroscopy method can diagnose H. pylori bacteria from exhaled breath

Researchers at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT; Espoo, Finland) have developed a prototype device that optically analyzes a patient's exhaled breath to determine whether or not his or her stomach troubles are caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, which are connected to upper gastrointestinal tract problems such as ulcers and gastritis. The device, which uses a spectroscopy method for analysis, is able to measure not only the carbon-13 isotope, but also the oxygen-18 isotope in exhaled breath in real time.

Related: Noninvasive medical breath analysis with sensitive IR spectroscopy

The device is based on a technology developed by VTT startup MIKES Metrology—optical absorption spectroscopy in a multipass chamber with the sample volume reduced to just 40 µL, which is less than ten millionths of an adult's lung capacity. Because of the extremely small sample volume, the gas inside the chamber can rapidly be exchanged. This, in turn, enables the entire breathing cycle of the patient to be analyzed rapidly by the same device. The prototype includes a computer, a pump, and optics, and communicates wirelessly with tablets and smartphones, resulting in a measurement that displays immediately.

VTT's prototype device, which uses a spectroscopy method, can diagnose H. pylori bacteria from a patient's exhaled breath with 100% accuracy
VTT's prototype device, which uses a spectroscopy method, can diagnose H. pylori bacteria from a patient's exhaled breath with 100% accuracy
VTT's prototype device, which uses a spectroscopy method, can diagnose H. pylori bacteria from a patient's exhaled breath with 100% accuracy.

Current commercial devices based on exhaled breath analysis give a result with 95–98% reliability, which means that the results must often be confirmed with gastroscopy, a procedure that is unpleasant for the patient. But the device developed by VTT has the benefit of eliminating false positives from the analyses. According to a study,1 100% analysis accuracy can be achieved with the device when oxygen-18 is analyzed from exhaled breath in addition to carbon-13. Current commercial exhaled breath analyzers only perform the analysis on carbon-13.

VTT is planning follow-up projects intended to develop the device for diagnosing also other illnesses, such as early-stage Type 2 diabetes and blood poisoning or sepsis. It also has possible applications in the monitoring of surgery patients and unconscious patients because it can operate next to the patient around the clock. Accurate and specific data can be obtained from each breathing cycle.

1. A. Maity et al., J. Anal. At. Spectrom., 2251–2255, 29 (2014); http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C4JA00280F.

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