Medical researchers are well on their way to the future with new testing methods that can diagnose a plethora of diseases with just a sample of the patient's breath. Since the days of Hippocrates have doctors connected distinctive breath aromas with disease, but as technology improves, the ambition is quickly becoming a reality.
It's as simple as it sounds. A new range of tools that act as sensor arrays (read: electronic noses) so to speak, are being developed by researchers across the country, and according to a new article about the trend in The Wall Street Journal, they're getting pretty good at detecting health problems. Some of the methods require a tagging material that reacts with certain chemicals in the body and creates a distinctive odor when the patient exhales. Others are simply fine tuned to detect certain chemical compounds in a patient's normal breathing patterns. The Journal's Melinda Beck explains:
Every individual has a unique breath signature—like a fingerprint—that contains not only oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide but also volatile organic compounds. Those are chemicals from inside and outside the body that evaporate at room temperature and are the source of most breath odors. … Exhaled breath also contains a host of "confounders" inhaled from the ambient air—including molecules of pollution, paint, furniture, even carpet fibers—that can interfere with breath sampling.
Quick side note: We have paint chips in our breath!? Slightly longer side note: No wonder Listerene was once marketed as a floor cleaner.