Breath test could detect early stage Parkinson’s

Breath test could detect early stage Parkinson’s

1920 1080 Peter Stevenson, PhD

A simple breath test for detection of early-stage Parkinson’s disease (PD) could one day be an effective, portable diagnostic tool – even outside the clinic – according to new research.

The breath test, developed by scientists at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Israel, contains an array of 40 sensors made from carbon nanotubes or gold nanoparticles. The sensor array is able to detect volatile compounds in exhaled breath which are known to be linked to the state of health of the individual.

As they describe in their work, published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, early diagnosis of PD is important in guiding the choice of therapy, as well as potentially enabling the start of neuroprotective therapy before extensive loss of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra occurs. Unfortunately, however, diagnostic tools are traditionally subject to a relatively high degree of error, and are generally reserved only for treated and medicated patients.

In a study of 29 PD patients and 19 healthy controls, results showed that the sensor array was able to pick out early-stage PD patients with a sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of 79%, 84% and 81%, respectively. This compares well to ultrasound (93%, 90% and 92%), but without the need for expert-driven evaluation.

The breath test builds on previous data from the Israeli team and other international collaborators in which they used an artificial intelligence (AI) nanoarray to diagnose and classify 17 diseases via the analysis of “breathprints” of more than 1,000 patients.

While more data is needed for full validation of the breath test, the authors add, the new technique has the potential to bolster early detection of PD via a simple, minimally invasive methodology.


  • Finberg JPM et al. Sensor Array for Detection of Early Stage Parkinson’s Disease before Medication. ACS Chem. Neurosci. DOI: 10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00245

  • Paddock, C. Parkinson’s disease: Breath test for early diagnosis steps closer. Medical News Today. Available at; accessed August 7, 2018.

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