Breath test in the works could eliminate finger sticks, diagnose diabetes

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
University of Oxford researchers develop diabetes breath test

University of Oxford researchers are on their way to developing a portable device that could take the sting out of diabetes monitoring and even monitor blood sugar levels.


The device is much like an alcohol breathalyzer that detects byproducts of sugar metabolism on the breath. The portable machine detects acetone that forms when the body breaks down sugar.

The product is highlighted in the American Chemical Society’s journal Analytical Chemistry.

Robert Peverall and his team at the university’s department of Chemistry, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry Laboratory have found a way to accurately allow clinicians to quickly diagnose diabetes that, when developed could lead to rapid treatment and intervention.


But the device, once developed, can be used in any setting.

The researchers testing the breathalyzer on a variety of subjects to test accuracy - including after fasting and post exercise; then compared the results to those collected from mass spectometry readings.

The diabetes breath test could reach the market by 2020. Approval of such a device that can detect undiagnosed diabetes could lead the way to other noninvasive ways for people with diabetes to measure their blood sugar levels.

The European Union licensed Abbott's Freestyle Libre in 2014 that scans blood sugar readings each minute, eliminating the need for lancets and finger sticks.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons