It's clear to us that the flu can be transmitted by a person's cough or a person's nose dribble (i.e. mucus). Many, many years of epidemiological data have shown the connection between respiratory secretions and flu transmission. It should be no surprise, then that virions can be found in respiratory secretions-- and that these virions can be used to detect infection by flu viruses.
And so the concept behind a breath monitor for flu came about for Perena Gouma and her research group at the University of Texas at Arlington. Gouma's lab has developed an exhale-sensing device for detection of flu virus. Semiconductor sensors within the device are able to identify the presence of certain biomarkers.
In the past, Gouma has created other analyzers for the detection of medical conditions, such as asthma. In making this flu version, her group has simply chosen different biomarkers to test for. It should be noted that there is not just one flu virus that causes the flu; many different viruses lead to flu-like illnesses, and depending on the biomarkers Gouma's group chooses, the sensing machine will be able to be more specific to certain flu strains.
It is hoped that further development of this technology will allow early detection of disease, aiding in preventing disease spread and in delivering patient care at the acute stage to prevent progression to serious illness.
-- Sharon Kam