Updated 12 August 2019

Your bad breath could be more than just a result of what you had for lunch - and a 'sniff-cam' may be able to detect what's wrong

A new 'camera' can now detect low levels of disease biomarkers in people's breath - which scientists were not able to measure before.

Halitosis, commonly referred to as bad breath is an unpleasant odour from the mouth caused by poor oral hygiene, eating certain foods or certain chronic medical conditions which include lung cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Scientists have been trying to develop new ways to measure substances released in bad breath. It was, however, not always possible for them to detect lower levels of certain disease biomarkers. 

Medical practitioners would often use breath and body odour to diagnose patients, but analysis would never be truly accurate due to the fact that healthy people give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and these substances are dependent on factors such as sex and body mass.

A new, refined version

Scientists are thrilled to report that there is now a highly sensitive 'sniff-cam' which can overcome these issues.

According to the study, published in ACS' Analytical chemistry, researchers created a new, refined version of the sniff-cam, which is now able to detect diagnostic levels of disease biomarkers.

The new sniff-cam has an ultraviolet ring light, filters and a camera. The enzyme mesh reacts to ethanol with oxidized nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which produces a fluorescent reduced form of NAD, recorded by the camera. The new method of analysing images is more sensitive, and allows for low amounts of ethanol to be measured.

The new sniff-cam was tested on a group of males who had not eaten or consumed any liquids. The device detected very low levels of ethanol on their breath.

The results revealed that the sniff-cam is able to detect a broader range of VOC levels compared to previous devices, which could help with further studies involving the relationship between scents and diseases.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

Oral health expert

Dr Imraan Hoosen qualified from the Medical University of South Africa in 1997. Together with his partner, Dr Hoosen now runs a group of dental practices around Johannesburg (Lesedi Private Hospital, Highlands North Medical Centre , Brenthurst Clinic, Parklane Clinic, Simmonds Street Medical and Dental Centre, Soni Medical Centre- Newclare). Dr Hoosen can be contacted on 011 933 4096.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules