In Summary
  • The test can detect six different odours or volatile organic compounds to spot cases of malaria.
  • A non-invasive method of detection that does not require blood samples or technical expertise could, therefore, be of great benefit.

Scientists have devised a way of detecting malaria in children through a breath test.

According to researchers from Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, the "malaria breathalyser" picks up on a previous breakthrough that found people with the disease have unique chemical compounds in their breath.

They say that an odour it sniffs out in people with malaria is identical to a natural smell that attracts insects that spread the disease.

INFECTION
They believe that 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 people that they bite.

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

The findings were presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene during the annual meeting this week.

The scientists reported how they have been testing out a simple hand-held prototype breathalyser in Lilongwe, Malawi.

RESULTS

The test can detect six different odours or volatile organic compounds to spot cases of malaria.

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