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Malaria Breathalyzer Test could Help Millions Affected by Disease

A breathalyzer test for malaria is in the works from scientists at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

According to the research, conferred this week at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and reported on by Wired, people with malaria emanate a distinctive “breath-print” that could be utilized as a test for the disease.

The research team found that there are six unique compounds found in the breath of malaria casualty — the breath test could figure out these compounds and regulate if a suspected victim has the disease, which is caused by a parasite and transmitted by affected mosquitoes.

In the study, 35 children from Malawi, some with malaria and some without, gave breath samples to test the efficiency of the machine. The breath test was capable to accurately identification 29 of the children — a success rate of 83%.

Once the researchers can increase this success rate, the machine could be more broadly utilized as a faster, cheaper, non-invasive and reliable technique to test for the disease that consumes many countries in Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

“It’s clear that if we had fast, easy-to-use, decent diagnostic gadgets that both health care providers and families trust, we could reduce useless antibiotic use,” said lead researcher Audrey Odom John, at a TEDxKC talk in 2015, when she was in the early steps of her work on the device.

“This would have a major brunt on control of malaria because all current diagnostic techniques need blood sampling. You can imagine how much simpler a “breathalyzer” would be to use for shielding a whole village or at a border crossing,” John told the Daily News.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 212 million cases of malaria were announced worldwide in 2015 and about 429,000 people died many of them children.

Symptoms of malaria consist of chills, fever, sweats, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms, with some physical evidence of jaundice, an enlarged spleen, and improved respiratory rate. Death is possible, but malaria is correctable if caught in time.

Malaria in the United States, which reaches about 1,700 cases per year, if often caused by travelers carrying the disease back from malaria-stricken nations.

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