A H1N1 breath test that can tackle vaccine shortages

London: Scientists have developed a new breath test for swine flu which they say could help prevent wastage of H1N1 vaccine by identifying those who already have the strain.

The "fast acting, non-invasive"  test, devised by a team from Cleveland Clinic in the US and Syft Technologies in New Zealand, measures biomolecules that accumulate in the body in response to H1N1.

Although the vaccine is not harmful, administering it to those who were already infected with H1N1 virus is a waste of precious stockpiles, the researchers said.

But, the new breath test, they said, could stop this occurring, the Daily Mail reported.

The test would monitor exhaled nitric oxide (NO) — a biomolecule whose production has previously been linked to influenza and viral infection.

It`s believed to play a beneficial role in viral clearance and is thought that the level of the gas in the breath could indicate whether or not swine flu has been contracted.

"This study adds to the growing evidence for the utility of breath analysis in medical diagnostics,"said study co-author Professor Raed Dweik, director of the pulmonary vascular program at the Cleveland Clinic.

"More work still needs to be done, however, to identify the specific compounds that change in response to vaccination and to find the biologic link between those compounds and the host response to the vaccine or the actual disease."

The H1N1 pandemic in 2009 affected over 200 countries. It killed close to 500 people in the UK alone when it first struck and hospitalised thousands.

The researchers detailed their work in the Journal of Breath Research.