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Scientists Hope to Develop Beath Test to Detect Multiple Sclerosis

Scientists are hoping that a new test will make diagnosing multiple sclerosis as fast and painless as breathing into a breathalyzer.

Scientists in the United Kingdom are exploring the possibility that multiple sclerosis may be diagnosable through a simple breath test, which could greatly improve early detection and treatment efforts.

Is Multiple Sclerosis Detectable in Your Breath?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be a particularly difficult disease to diagnose, but researchers at the University of Huddersfield Center for Biomarker Research (CBR) in the United Kingdom are hoping to change that with a new test that analyzes a person’s breath for biomarkers of the disease.

When we breathe out, we exhale hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOC), many of which were originally produced in our bloodstreams. As a result, these VOCs can often reveal details about physiological changes that are going on inside our bodies that would otherwise take much longer to be revealed through other forms of testing.

A 2017 study shows evidence that MS may be leaving detectable biomarkers of the disease in the VOCs in our breath, and the CBR researchers investigating the extent to which these biomarkers are present in our VOCs and whether these can be used to develop new tests for the disease that are as easy as blowing into a breathalyzer.

“There are over 100,000 people with MS in the UK and we often hear that the path to diagnosis is an incredibly stressful time,” said Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, director of research for the MS Society. “The techniques used for diagnosis are invasive, expensive and often laborious, so this exciting development would address a major unmet need. Having a lumbar puncture and even an MRI scan can be an uncomfortable and unsettling experience, which we know people with MS are keen to change.”

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