Scientists at Oxford University have developed a breath test, which will instantly tell parents if their child has type-1 diabetes.
The test detects the acetone levels in the breath and eliminates the need for an invasive blood test. It also means that a diabetes diagnosis can be obtained with minutes, instead of days.
The test detects ‘ketones’, which are harmful chemicals that accumulate within the body when the levels of insulin are low.
According to the co-author of the research, Professor Gus Hancock, current diabetes tests are often traumatic for young children.
It has been known for two centuries that acetone produces a sweet smell on diabetes sufferers’ breath. Researchers wanted to discover if monitoring the smell accurately would provide a diagnosis.
To do this, they collected breath samples from 113 children and adolescents, aged between seven and 18, along with blood samples.
They discovered an important link between increased levels of blood ketones and increased levels of breath acetone.
The development of type-1 diabetes occurs when insulin producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. No one really knows how the damage occurs in the cells, but the suggestion is that the body has an abnormal reaction to the cells, which could be brought about due to genetic reasons or an infection.
Around 26500 suffer from type-1 diabetes in Britain, with diagnoses occurring between the ages of 10 and 14.
Image Credit: Fernando de Sousa