A team of Swiss scientists have developed technology that diagnoses type 1 diabetes based on little more than a puff of bad breath.
A description of the device published in the journal Analytical Chemistry points to acetone as the key compound found in the breath of diabetic and pre-diabetic patients.
There are many chemical compounds on a person's breath, including the volatile sulfuric molecules that give most halitosis its odor. Everyone has a little acetone on their breath, but people who are developing type 1 diabetes typically have more.
Pancreatic failure can cause ketoacidosis, a dangerous buildup of acetone in the blood.
Using nanosensors made of tungsten oxide, the Swiss team created a breathalyser-like device that can detect acetone on breath down to concentrations of just 20 parts per billion (PPB), making it 90 times more sensitive than current acetone-detecting technology.
Most patients with the pancreatic disorder have a breath concentration of more than 1,800 PPB.
The device may soon be used for less invasive diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
While acetone is not commonly an agent of halitosis, sulfuric compounds are. To neutralize them, individuals may rinse the mouth with a specialty breath freshening product.