Pneumonia: New Diagnositic Test May Involve Analyzing Breath Specimens

First Posted: Jun 25, 2015 02:01 PM EDT

Pneumonia can be difficult to initially diagnose as the infection may start with symptoms just like the cold or flu. To properly identify the health issue, a chest X ray, blood test and/or other procedures may be required.

New research examines the potential for a pneumonia breath test. Researchers found that chemically analyzing breath specimens from patients in intensive care can help reveal bacterial infection in the lower respiratory tract of ventilated patients at risk of infection.

Though just in its infancy, the test could potentially have a huge effect on clinical practice as health care associated infections remain a worldwide issue.

"Pneumonias are caused by microbes that can be treated with antibiotics, but there are two major problems -- pneumonia can be difficult to detect and diagnose and because of that, we tend to use potent broad spectrum antibiotics in anyone who shows symptoms of infection," said Dr Paul Dark, a member of the research team and Honorary Consultant in intensive care medicine at Salford Royal, in a news release. "This might not be necessary, so is wasting NHS resources, but the bigger picture is that we could be seeding antibiotic resistance -- a huge worldwide issue."

The project was carried out by Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, The University of Mahcester Centre for Respiratory Medicine and Allergy, and the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) and was a proof-of-concept study prompted larger research invovling other patients in the area. 

"In the setting of complex clinical questions, this innovative project highlights how the application of state-of-the-art chemical analysis and bioinformatics can provide opportunities to deliver patient safety and improve human health on a global scale," concluded Roy Goodacre, who is a Professor in the School of Chemistry at The University of Manchester.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the article "Surveillance for lower airway pathogens in mechanically ventilated patients by metabolomics analysis of exhaled breath: a case-control study," published in the journal Thorax.

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