According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26 million people are affected with certain conditions and nearly 5.7 million are un-diagnosed. Diagnosis for conditions such as diabetes and hypoglycemia is dependent on several tests, which are mostly invasive or cost intensive (due to frequent use).
However, an alternative has been developed that relies on normal human breath to monitor diabetes.
Researchers have known for a long time that people who suffer from diabetes have a characteristic fruity odor which increases at the time of glucose deficiency. This fruit smell comes from a compound known as acetone. The acetone breath test is conventionally used in the status quo to determine alcohol toxicity of drunk drivers.
Background to the test
A hallmark feature of diabetes is that due to lack of insulin, the metabolic pathway of the body is affected. This leads to conversion of fatty acids to ketones. The increased levels of ketones such as acetone cause acidity in the blood, which is medically termed as ketosis or ketoacidosis.
Thanks to advancement in biosensors and nanotechnology, the acetone biomarker can be used for diagnosis of diabetes, remarkably lowering its costs of detection.
Benefits to the medical community
The obvious benefit is for the patient, but other important stakeholders are professionals in the healthcare community. The large scale distribution of this test means development of a new line of diagnostics, and possibly a new specialization, in the discipline of ‘breath diagnostics’.
Moreover, students who want to pursue successful healthcare careers but are financially constrained can target this area in an integrated manner. Careers such as diagnostics, coding and technician based courses are dependent on innovation in the field.
Online education courses and medical coding training provide students ample incentive to pursue coding and diagnostic careers while simultaneously gaining career rewarding certificates. On an administrative level, medical coding training will strengthen medical databases. On the macro level, new diagnostics help researchers analyze how different compounds produced within the human breath have a role in pathogenesis.
For instance, researchers are also evaluating how acetone and volatile compounds (VOCs) are characteristic for indicating respiratory disorders during diabetes. This is important since diabetes affected patients are often riddled with co-morbidities (i.e. other diseases arising from the condition).
Researchers at University of Pittsburgh have been able to develop a model of the breath analyzer that can be used at a global scale. While there are other models in production, this one gathers attention due to its interesting design.
The model successfully employs principle of physics and nanotechnology to good use. It uses titanium dioxide: commonly found in cosmetic products. This compound is merged with small carbon nanotubes, which have a very minute diameter. From then on, it transforms into a sensor.
The titanium dioxide in the nanotube has light illuminating properties, while the carbon nanotubes have electrical properties. The sensor can be activated with light to produce an electrical charge. Therefore, the acetone vapors in the human breath can be detected to very small limits.
Since diabetes patients have to monitor their glucose level routinely, this test becomes an ideal alternative to cost intensive diagnostics.
Living with diabetes is a financial burden, especially with respect to the current economy. To monitor diabetes, a lot of people rely on glucose meters. The majority of patients pay through their insurance providers for the device. Sadly, the coverage would limit the kind of model or the strip that you can use.
So with such constraints, the breath test for diabetes comes as a very viable option. Especially with a device that is basically a biosensor that doesn’t need to be replaced (like strips), it makes a lot of sense.
Secondly, this test is not only beneficial from the screening aspect, it also helps in diabetes management. By monitoring routinely without having to fear for cost, the test can assist patients in streamlining their glucose levels. The breath test also falls in line with the innovative the A1C test.
The levels of acetone in diabetic patients also give a comparative analysis on a number of indicators. Ketoacidosis in some cases can lead to a coma or death. Furthermore, increased acetone levels would indicate serious electrolyte losses in your body. The most important of these are sodium and potassium.
This leads to the patients developing abdominal pain, excessive stress levels and nausea. The breath test can immediately point out such indicators.
In these ways, the breath test for diabetes would make life easier for diabetic patients across the globe.
The above entry is a guest blog entry.