Patients may soon be able to screen themselves for influenza using a simple, breathalyzer-type technology. The tool, developed by a professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, is a hand-held device that measures the concentration of certain biomarkers such as nitric oxide or volatile organic compounds in exhaled breath, potentially isolating those markers associated with the flu virus.
The technology is relatively inexpensive and easy to use, therefore it could be effectively used as a screening tool in the future. If made available in drugstores for patient use, it could result in earlier diagnosis, earlier treatment, and decreased spread of the virus. This could benefit patients on an individual as well as a population level.
The technology could potentially be used to detect other viruses as well, such as Ebola, simply by changing the sensors and the biomarker profile.