Measuring breath acetone for diabetes diagnosis

DETECTING small quantities of acetone and other ketones in human breath is an important diagnostic tool for diabetes, but the standard technique for doing this involves the complication and expense of a mass spectrometer. Now Oxford Medical Diagnostocs (OMD) says it has made significant progress in developing a new prototype device using its proprietary spectroscopy technology.

OMD says its new desktop device is able to consistently measure acetone in human breath at less than one part per million (1ppm). This threshold is significant because healthy people exhale acteone at around 0.5ppm, while those with untreated or undiagnosed diabetes may have up to 5ppm acetone in their exhaled breath.

The company says it expects to be able to build a commercial version of the prototype at less than one-tenth of the cost of a mass spectrometer.

According to Julie Edge, a paediatric clinician at Oxford Children’s Hospital, children as young as babies and toddlers may need up to ten finger-pricks per day to check blood glucose levels, as well as insulin injections. “Any advance to reduce the number of invasive tests a child needs would be very welcome. A non-invasive method of measuring blood glucose levels and blood ketones would be valuable”.

OMD says it now plans to develop a hand-held device for diabetes patients that will replace the finger-prick blood glucose test, and expects to have an early prototype ready by 2013.

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