Revolutionary coronavirus breath test developed at Northumbria University.

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Researchers at Northumbria University have made a significant breakthrough in the diagnosis of respiratory diseases, such as the coronavirus.

Breath contains biomarkers, like DNA and RNA, which have the potential to allow doctors to diagnose diseases of the lung and beyond. The technique is so revolutionary, partly due to the fact that the technique is non-invasive, but also because of the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Systems that diagnose from breath sampling have not proven to be reliable enough due to contamination, sample loss and variability issues in breath analysis. However, the university has said that the new device resolves those issues so that data collected through this method closely resembles results from lung samples taken surgically.

It is hoped that this technology could also be used in the diagnosis of other health issues, including lung diseases, liver problems, diabetes, cancers, brain and ageing diseases.

Dr Sterghio Moschos, Associate Professor at Northumbria University, lead the development of this new medical technology. Dr Moschos explains: “Our ambition is to reduce the need for bloodletting for diagnosis in its broadest sense. The research evidence that shows this is possible is well established, what is missing is the standardised and reliable approach to do so outside the research lab: in pharmacies, GP surgeries or the back of an ambulance”

Dr Moschos also spoke about the value of the testing technology in airports: “In the case of coronavirus, temperature monitoring in airports is not sufficient. The World Health Organisation currently recommends testing nasal swabs, oral swabs and swabs from inside the lungs to avoid missing the infection. That’s why it’s vital that we develop non-invasive, quick and cost-effective tests for diagnosis and screening.”

The invention of technology which might be used at airports in this way could be used to prevent the spread of coronavirus to other countries, and is therefore of paramount importance at the current time. Eight Britons have now been diagnosed with the coronavirus, as well as 73,000 worldwide.

Last modified: 1st March 2020

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