breath test

Researchers from the University of Sydney have developed a device that can easily measure ketones in a person’s breath.

The low-cost could offer an alternative, less uncomfortable method of accurately testing ketone levels.

Currently, measuring ketone levels requires either urine testing, which is too inaccurate as it shows ketone levels from a number of hours before, or blood testing, which is invasive and requires finger-pricking.

Ketone testing is important for many people with type 1 diabetes as it helps them to prevent a dangerous complication called ketoacidosis occurring.

Despite ketone testing being important, many people may be put off testing their ketone levels regularly because it involves more finger-pricking. This is in addition to the regular finger-pricking that needs to be done for blood glucose tests.

This new device is designed to be as easy to use as possible and the easier testing is, the more likely people are to measure their ketone levels and therefore help prevent dangerous ketoacidosis from occurring.

The device uses the presence of chemicals called ketones, which are generated by the body and released in the breath, in relation to the level of glucose in the body at the time. When ketones are present, there is a high level of glucose in the blood, indicating a need for insulin.

It will be used similar to an alcohol breath test machine, but the research team want to be able to make it small enough to fit into a trouser pocket or a handbag.

The device has been shown to be more successful and sensitive than the current finger-prick approach at detecting blood glucose levels, and Professor Stephen Twigg, from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, is excited about the potential of the device.

He said: “We need cross-disciplines collaborations – in this case, engineering, science and medicine – to create technologies that help keep people healthy and prevent hospital admissions.

“The engineers have been able to overcome a fundamental problem and present a unique cost-effective and sensitive technology to detect breath ketone”.

The team in Sydney is now planning further clinical trials in order to assess the efficacy and reliability of the device when used by diabetes patients.