Equipment to determine through unique chemical components in someones breath has been available for some time. Usually the methods involved are expensive, complex and slow. The available equipment sometimes takes up half a room and can cost up to a million dollars, says Owlstone Medicals Billy Boyle.Using Microchip technoloy the medical startup Owlstone has been able to place all the needed equipment for breath analysing in a device the size of a button, Boyle claims. In this form factor these analysers can be built into a simple breathalyser (see picture). Owlstone Medical claims it will be possible eventually to save a 100.000 lives this way and save the tax payer 1.5 billion pounds in medical costs in the UK alone.
Dr Robert Rintoul, testing the Owlstone breathalysers in the Papsworth hospital, compares the method of breath analysing with analysing fingerprints. By finding unique chemical components in a persons breath, it can be determined if a someone has lung cancer long before this is possible with more conventional methods.
According to Reuters clinical testing with up to 3,000 test subjects wil commence soon.