TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Researchers say new breath test may detect pneumonia

A new breath test may detect pneumonia. | Courtesy of sciencedaily.com
Researchers at the University of Manchester said Thursday that they have found an innovative method of quickly and accurately diagnosing patients who are critically ill with infections like pneumonia.

The new method chemically analyzes specimens from the breath of intensive care patients. This shows whether there is a bacterial infection located in the lower respiratory tract for ventilated patients who are considered to be at a higher risk of developing pneumonia.

The method is still in developmental stages, but the research shows considerable promise. It could radically and positively change clinical practice and health care for infections.

One member of the research team was Dr. Paul Dark,  honorary consultant in intensive care medicine at Salford Royal.  "When patients come into a hospital, their safety is absolutely crucial,” Dark said. “We know that one of the most significant risks is that they develop an infection and patients in critical care are the most vulnerable because they are very ill and we have to use lots of interventions and invasive techniques.

"We have to provide the very highest quality safety measures for them, but despite that, some patients do still get infections and one of the most common is respiratory tract infection, especially pneumonia,” Dark said. "Pneumonias are caused by microbes that can be treated with antibiotics, but there are two major problems - pneumonia can be difficult to detect and diagnose and because of that, we tend to use potent broad spectrum antibiotics in anyone who shows symptoms of infection. 

"This might not be necessary, so is wasting NHS (National Health Service) resources, but the bigger picture is that we could be seeding antibiotic resistance - a huge worldwide issue,” Dark said.

The usual method of confirming infections with lab tests can take days. 

"Now we know that it's feasible to capture and measure breath chemicals of patients on mechanical ventilators, we plan to develop a simple noninvasive system that will be part of the normal connections on the machine,”  Clinical Lecturer in the University's Centre for Respiratory Medicine and Allergy based at the University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust Stephen Fowler said. "We have attracted National Institute for Health Research Invention for Innovation funding for the next three years to work on this. Our findings so far have been very exciting and we are optimistic that this research will be of real impact clinically.”

Roy Goodacre, a professor in the School of Chemistry at The University of Manchester and works in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology,  commented on the findings. "In the setting of complex clinical questions, this innovative project highlights how the application of state-of-the-art chemical analysis and bioinformatics can provide opportunities to deliver patient safety and improve human health on a global scale,” he said.

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