The sooner that you know you've got the flu, the sooner you can stop spreading it and start treating it. That's the thinking behind a new device designed by Prof. Perena Gouma, from the University of Texas at Arlington. Her hand-held breath monitor can detect if the user has the flu, based on a single exhale.

The breathalyzer utilizes three inexpensive semiconductor sensors similar to those used in a carbon monoxide detector, although in this case they've been selected to detect specific concentrations of breath-borne biomarkers associated with influenza – those biomarkers include isoprene, nitric oxide and ammonia.

In lab tests, it has proven to be as effective as costly lab-based equipment, that must be run by trained personnel. By contrast, Gouma hopes that her device could ultimately be available to regular people in drug stores, at a reasonably low price.

"I think that technology like this is going to revolutionize personalized diagnostics," she says. "This will allow people to be proactive and catch illnesses early, and the technology can easily be used to detect other diseases, such as Ebola virus disease, simply by changing the sensors."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Sensors.

Source: University of Texas at Arlington