If a critically ill patient is infected with pneumonia, a simple breath test can now detect it. Chemically analyzing breath specimens from patients in intensive care can reveal bacterial infection in the lower respiratory tract of ventilated patients at risk of developing pneumonia.
Though the study is at an initial stage, the results so far look promising and could potentially have a huge effect on clinical practice as healthcare associated infections are a major issue worldwide.
"Pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics but there are two major problems - it can be difficult to detect and diagnose and because of that we tend to use potent broad spectrum antibiotics in anyone who shows symptoms of infection," said Paul Dark, one of the researchers and honorary consultant in intensive care medicine at Salford Royal.
Current methods of confirming the presence of infections involve laboratory tests of samples from deep in the lungs, which is time consuming.
"Now we know that it is feasible to capture and measure breath chemicals of patients on mechanical ventilators, we plan to develop a simple non-invasive system that will be part of the normal connections on the machine," said Stephen Fowler, clinical lecturer in the University of Manchester's Centre for Respiratory Medicine and Allergy.
The unique 'first in man' project was carried out at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and appeared in the journal Thorax.