Scientists develop an opioid breath test
Presently, in order to check the level of opioid drugs in a person's bloodstream, a blood sample must be taken. Things may soon be getting much less invasive, however, as scientists have now developed a breath test that does the job.
The system was developed by a team at the University of California-Davis, led by postdoctoral researcher Eva Borras and Prof. Cristina Davis.
People who are being tested start by breathing normally, into a collection device. Droplets of their breath condense within it, and are then frozen until they can be placed in a mass spectrometer within a lab. That machine is capable of detecting both the original drug and metabolites (compounds produced by the body as it breaks down the drug) within the droplets.
In a test of the technology, six chronic pain patients were initially given infusions of medications such as morphine and hydromorphone, along with oral doses of oxycodone. When their opioid metabolite levels were subsequently checked via both blood samples and the breath test, figures for the two techniques were very similar.
A larger study, which will involve the bedside testing of hospital patients, is now being planned. Ultimately, it is hoped that the breath test could be used to easily check that patients are taking the correct dosage of drugs (and that the medication is being metabolized correctly), or to identify individuals who are illegally abusing opioids.
The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the Journal of Breath Research.
Source: UC Davis