Healthy old manA new study funded by Parkinson's UK will determine if a simple breath test could help detect Parkinson's. The researchers, with funding from Parkinson's UK and the British Council, will study around 200 people to see if their breath can be used to determine which have Parkinson's.

Professor Hossam Haick and his team at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have already shown in a smaller study of 57 people that breath alone could differentiate between people with Parkinson's and healthy individuals. Breath tests have been used to diagnose cancer, with dogs even being able to sniff out the disease. This is the first time scientists have looked at what someone's breath could tell them about whether they have Parkinson's.

Currently, no test can conclusively show that a person has Parkinson's. Instead, doctors reach a diagnosis based on a person's symptoms and test results - such as brain scans to rule out other diseases. At this stage, Parkinson's may already be fairly advanced.  

Professor Roger Barker, who is leading the clinical side of the study at the University of Cambridge, said: "Looking at the breath of people with Parkinson's is an exciting new  venture. We're hoping it will not only improve diagnosis, but also that it will tell us more about how Parkinson's develops and whether there are different types of Parkinson's. The biggest hope would be that there may be molecules in the breath of people with Parkinson’s which throw up new options for drug targets."

Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research and Development, at Parkinson's UK said: "We've been struggling for decades to find a definitive diagnostic test for Parkinson's. A simple breath test could provide the answer we're looking for. Brain scans, blood tests and urine samples don't tell a doctor definitively if someone has the condition.
"As a result there is often doubt, and even error, in the diagnosis at early stages. A simple breath test could provide the answer we're looking for."

Scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology will work together on the project as part of the British Council's Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange programme (BIRAX).