Photo: a woman in an appointment with a nurse

Researchers hope to develop a breath test to diagnose MS

Speaking at our MS Frontiers conference today in Bath, researchers from the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Biomarker Research (CeBioR) explained their plan to find new ways to diagnose MS.

Revealing hidden changes in MS

Every time a person breathes out they release hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These VOCs can reveal hidden changes happening in the body.

Research so far shows there could be VOCs unique to MS, some of which may reflect changes in gut bacteria.

A new tool to diagnose MS

The next step is to confirm these biological markers can be used for diagnosis. The research team at the CeBioR now want to run a large-scale study involving people with MS.

The researchers are already in the process of collecting breath samples to find out more about these VOCs. They'll look at VOCs from people living with various stages of MS, and compare them to people without MS to see which compounds are only present in MS.

As well as providing a fast and cheap diagnosis method, these “biomarkers” could one day help monitor how someone’s MS is progressing and how they’re responding to treatments.

Futuristic – but encouraging

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, our Director of Research, said: “There are over 100,000 people with MS in the UK and we often hear that the path to diagnosis is an incredibly stressful time."

"The techniques used for diagnosis are invasive, expensive and often laborious, so this exciting development would address a major unmet need. Having a lumbar puncture and even an MRI scan can be an uncomfortable and unsettling experience, which we know people with MS are keen to change.

“While a breath biopsy test may sound futuristic, MS researchers today are achieving some incredible things – and these findings, whilst early, are very encouraging.”