Positive results for a breath test for Parkinson's

Researchers in Israel have made positive steps towards a simple diagnostic test for Parkinson's.

The results from a research team currently part funded by Parkinson's UK highlight the progress being made towards a breath test for the early detection of the condition. Read the full results published in the ACS Chemical Neuroscience journal

The researchers showed that in a group of 29 people with early Parkinson's and 19 individuals of a similar age who did not have the condition, analysing chemicals in the breath could detect Parkinson's with around 80% accuracy.

Detecting Parkinson's earlier

There is no test for Parkinson's available today. Instead, specialists use clinical judgement alongside tests that rule out other conditions, which often takes time and is not 100% accurate.

Diagnosing Parkinson's in the earliest stages is even more challenging. By the time symptoms start to appear, up to half of the precious dopamine-producing brain cells have already been lost or damaged. 

A simple diagnostic test could change this, allowing much earlier detection. This is why researchers around the world are searching for measurable changes - called biomarkers - in the blood, breath and even skin, which may be caused by the onset of Parkinson's.

The researchers tested the accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of the technique against other potential diagnostic tests. They discovered that the breath test may be more sensitive and accurate than using a loss of smell to detect early Parkinson's.

Dr Beckie Port, Research Communications Manager, comments:

"Currently there is no conclusive diagnostic test for Parkinson's, which makes the condition extremely difficult to identify - particularly in the early stages.

"While more research is needed, the results of this small-scale study show the exciting potential of using chemicals in our breath as a simple and effective test to detect Parkinson's earlier.

"Should this kind of early diagnosis become possible, it could open new doors for research and even help in the discovery of new treatments that could slow the progression of the condition – something no current medication can do."