Breath test to prevent skipped pills

By Ann Griswold • Published: June 12th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Most of us have missed a dose of antibiotic or forgotten to take a daily vitamin. But when the stakes are higher… as they are for people with H-I-V and AIDS… a skipped pill could mean the difference between health and hazard for the entire population.

Now, a breath monitoring device developed by scientists at the University of Florida and Xhale [EX-HALE] Inc. could help prevent the emergence of drug-resistant strains of H-I-V by monitoring medication adherence in high-risk individuals.

Patients who take some but not all of their medication increase the likelihood that H-I-V will mutate into a deadlier, drug-resistant form. The breath-monitoring device could help crack down on the problem by ensuring that patients take their daily doses of medication.

The researchers developed the shoebox-sized device by incorporating minute [MY-NEWT] amounts of an alcohol into the outer coating of a pill. When patients swallow the pill, the alcohol is digested and can be measured in the breath.

The device records the results of each breath test so patients can bring a memory card or U-S-B key to the clinic once a month and receive a printout of their results. Eventually, the researchers hope to reduce the size of the detection device to fit inside a cell phone. But for now, they’re satisfied the technology works.

The approach can be applied to many different types of pills, so someday the device might also be used to monitor patients with tuberculosis and other communicable diseases.