Experimental "breath-meters" have been developed before, but they mostly focused on a single disease. By identifying a unique "breath print" for various diseases, Swedish researchers have constructed an apparatus that is capable of diagnosing no less than 17 diseases, including cancer and Parkinson's. According to Mats J. Olsson, professor at the Karolinska Institute, this discovery may facilitate the early detection of diseases.
"A simple handheld device is a nice and easy way to test for specific diseases, provided that the diseases are identified with a reliable margin of error. This way, you can hopefully avoid the patient having to undergo further analysis. Moreover, the method makes it possible to detect and treat diseases at an earlier stage," Mats J. Olsson told Swedish national broadcaster SVT.
"The first step to correctly classify the disease through its smell. The next step is to analyze the pathophysiological process, which is what happens to the body as the disease progresses," Mats J. Olsson said.
As early as 400 BC, ancient Greek physician Hippocrates taught his students to smell their patients' breath to obtain clues to their diseases. In the 1800s, the "nasal diagnosis" method made a brief comeback, yet had to give way to technologically advanced methods, such as laboratory analyses.
"Evolution-wise, it was very important to smell the sickness, especially during periods when infectious diseases were the greatest danger to people. Aversion and distaste for the smell of disease evolved to keep us healthy," Mats J. Olsson concluded.
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