With Bated Breath: Awaiting New Diagnostic Measures for COVID-19

With Bated Breath: Awaiting New Diagnostic Measures for COVID-19

Health journalism has made it public knowledge that much of the ability to combat COVID-19 has come from innovative measures. In both workflows and tooling, rapidly engineered solutions have allowed for effective virus management in inpatient and outpatient populations. And while testing capabilities for COVID-19 have increased in the past months, innovators at Cleveland Clinic remain on a quest for less-invasive, highly scalable diagnostic platforms.

Leveraging the ability to measure compounds in the breath known as volatile organic compounds, a team at Cleveland Clinic has developed a breath analysis test to capture vapor droplets and indicate the presence of particular compounds for the diagnosis of COVID-19. Funneling the breath of a patient into a mass spectroscopy system, valuable information can be gathered from an individual’s ‘breathprint.’ Taking less than five minutes and providing "almost instantaneous" results, the breath analysis solution provides a viable alternative to clunky nasopharyngeal swabs.

Though a huge breakthrough for COVID-19, breath testing shows great promise in larger-scale chronic diseases. Says Raed Dweik, MD, Chairman of the Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic and breath analysis project lead, “We’ve been on the cutting-edge of breath analysis now for many years. We’ve looked at many disease states: heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, and liver disease. Every place we’ve looked, we’ve found a utility for breath testing, either for diagnosis or monitoring – it depends on the question that's being asked.”

For the COVID-19 application, Cleveland Clinic is ready to start clinical trials to evaluate the technology. Protocol for the trial has been finalized, and answers about how the test works are expected before the summer of 2021. Referring to breath as a ‘new vital sign,’ the team looks forward to the data its test can provide, as well as the contributions it will make to the breath diagnostic space as a whole.

Hear more about the development of breath testing for COVID-19 in the latest episode of Health Amplified from Cleveland Clinic, ‘Light at the End of the Tunnel? COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Begins’ with Dr. Dweik.

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