Diabetes breath test

*A breathalyser device that could detect the sweet smell of acetone in a child's breath is under development by scientists and could be used to quickly diagnose type 1 diabetes. *

The breath test is designed to spot early signs of the organic chemical with a distinctive aroma that is associated with the condition. Acetone, often used in solvents such as nail polish remover, belongs to a family of compounds called ketones that accumulate in the blood when insulin levels are low.

Left unchecked, ketone build-up can lead to a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which occurs when the body becomes too acidic.

*One in four children with type 1 diabetes do not know they have the disease until they become severely ill with DKA. * For more than 200 years, acetone has been known to produce a sweet smell on the breath people with diabetes.

But new research has shown that small traces of acetone on the breath indicate increased levels of other blood ketones and can act as an early warning of type 1 diabetes.

Professor Gus Hancock, from Oxford University, said results have shown that it is realistically possible to use measurements of breath acetone to estimate blood ketones.

"We are working on the development of a small hand held device that would allow the possibility of breath measurements for ketone levels and help to identify children with new diabetes before DKA supervenes. Currently, testing for diabetes requires a blood test which can be traumatic for children."

The scientists collected breath samples from 113 children and teenagers between the ages of seven and 18. Levels of acetone in the samples were compared with those in the participants' blood capillaries. A significant relationship was observed between higher amounts of acetone in the breath and increased levels of blood ketones, especially one known as beta hydroxybutyrate.

No link was found between breath acetone and blood glucose levels.

The study has been published in the Institute of Physics publication the Journal of Breath Research.

Written by:

Diabetes Queensland