Menssana Research has developed a rapid point-of-care breath test in Newark, US, that accurately detects active pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), according to a report published in the Tuberculosis journal.

As part of the research funded by the National Institutes of Health and the US Air Force, 279 patients were studied at four centres in three countries, the Philippines, England and India.

Menssana’s BreathLink system collected and concentrated breath and air volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and analysed them with automated thermal desorption, gas chromatography and surface acoustic wave detection.

The study reported that a six-minute, internet-linked, point-of-care breath test for volatile biomarkers accurately identified subjects with active pulmonary TB.

“Patients prefer breath tests to X-rays or blood or sputum tests because they are quick, painless and safe.”

The breath test is not intended to replace the sputum tests that are currently used, but it could be used as a first-line screening test to reduce the cost of finding each new case of active pulmonary tuberculosis in a high-risk community.

Menssana Research CEO and developer of the breath test, Michael Phillips, said the breath test was 84% accurate in detecting patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis.

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“It detected volatile organic compounds that are manufactured by the infecting organism, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes the disease,” Phillips added.

Phillips said that patients generally prefer breath tests to X-rays or blood or sputum tests because they are quick, painless and safe, as well as cost effective.

Menssana Research is currently developing a rapid point-of-care breath test with BreathLink for other diseases, including lung cancer and breast cancer.