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Malaria breath test shows promise

From BBC - November 6, 2017

People with malaria give off a distinctive "breath-print" that could be used as a test for the disease, according to American scientists.

They had already tried out a crude prototype breathalyser in Africa, a tropical medicine conference heard.

The test was reasonably good at detecting cases in children, but needs developing to become a routine device.

One of the odours it sniffs out is identical to a natural smell that attracts insects that spread malaria.

Pine trees and conifers emit these terpenes to summon mosquitoes and other pollinating insects, say the researchers, from Washington University in St Louis.

They believe people with malaria who have this odour in their breath may also attract mosquitoes and infect more of the biting insects, which can then spread the disease to other people that they bite.

Although the test needs perfecting, it could offer a new cheap and easy way to help diagnose malaria, Prof Audrey Odom John and colleagues say.

Distinct odour

The prototype breath test detects six different odours or volatile organic compounds to spot cases of malaria.

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