Multiple sclerosis can be diagnosed with a breath test in the near future, scientists hope.
Research has suggested that patients affected by the incurable condition exhale various substances compared to healthy people.
Called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), some types can indicate other diseases, such as cancer.
Experts hope that VOC & # 39; s GPs will help recognize MS faster when a patient visits the early symptoms of the progressive disorder.
Currently, diagnoses can take a long time and tests such as MRI scans that can be painful are required.
Multiple sclerosis could be diagnosed with a breath test in the future, scientists hope, by measuring VOCs that indicate disease
Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at MS Society, admitted that a breathing biopsy might sound futuristic & # 39 ;.
However, she added: “MS researchers are achieving incredible things today – and these findings, although early, are very encouraging.
& # 39; There are more than 100,000 people with MS in the UK and we often hear that the path to diagnosis is an incredibly stressful time.
& # 39; The techniques used for diagnosis are invasive, expensive and often laborious, so this exciting development would address a major unmet need.
& # 39; A lumbar puncture and even an MRI scan can be an uncomfortable and disturbing experience that we know people with MS would like to change. & # 39;
WHAT ARE FOX?
There are two different types of VOC: volatile organic compounds.
Exogenous VOCs are small particles released through hundreds of household items into which they are built, including furniture, candles, incense, and rugs.
An example is paint that initially has a strong odor that evaporates over time.
Endogenous VOCs are made from processes in the human body.
Phoebe Tate, from the University of Huddersfield, said: & They are the end product of the metabolic reactions in your body.
& # 39; When you exhale them, you can get an idea of what is happening on the body. & # 39;
Research on VOC is new and scientists do not understand what each means or where it comes from.
Dogs have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and can pick up VOCs. They are released in the early stages of many cancers, including ovaries, lungs and colorectal.
Scientific studies have shown that dogs can separate between blood and tissue samples from ovarian cancer patients and healthy people by collecting minute amounts of VOCs.
Studies have also shown that dogs can sniff prostate cancer in a man's urine, as well as breast and lung forms of the disease through substances in a patient's breath.
VOCs are unique for every type of cancer.
For example, a healthy lung and a lung infected with cancer exude different substances.
If a dog detects this with its owner, they can try to warn him.
Everyone exudes hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the body, but it is not entirely clear what each means.
VOCs are what dogs are able to sniff in the early stages of many cancers, including ovaries and lung cancer.
Dr. Kohlhaas & # 39; comments were based on promising research by academics at the University of Huddersfield last year.
They watched the VOS exhaled in the breath of 60 participants, including healthy people and patients with different types of MS.
They found several new VOCs that & # 39; more or less abundant & # 39; are in the breath of people with MS compared to healthy people.
At least six VOCs differ between subtypes of MS and can therefore be used to distinguish between people with relapsing MS and progressive MS.
Pheobe Tate, a master student who led the research under the supervision of Dr. Patrick McHugh said that the meaning of this VOC should be validated.
She told MailOnline: & # 39; We have found six molecules, but we cannot tell if it is definitive, so we are speculative.
& # 39; We should check if people with other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases have these. & # 39;
The work has yet to be published.
To see if the VOCs are unique to MS, the next team research will include patients with neurological, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.
Dr. McHugh and colleagues are collecting breath samples from 500 people, 350 of whom will have a total of MS.
Mrs Tate hopes that the test will be rolled out over the NHS within the next five years and used by general practitioners.
It is understood, based on a 2017 study by Israeli researchers, that VOCs reflect changes in the gut microbiome of MS patients.
Currently, the diagnosis of MS is based on vague symptoms, including fatigue, muscle stiffness, and difficult balancing.
MS damages the nerves in the body and makes it harder to do everyday things such as walking, talking, eating and thinking. It is relentless, painful and invalidating.
It is most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s and is one of the most common causes of disability in younger adults.
In addition to offering a fast and inexpensive diagnostic method, the VOS can also be an indicator of how patients respond to drugs, as well as their disease progression.
Soo Lyon-Milne, 53, from Stockport, lives with the secondary progressive form of MS. She said: & # 39; If this test had been available at the time my symptoms started, doctors could have diagnosed me ten years earlier.
& # 39; There are no medicines for my type of MS and that may have given me a chance to be treated.
& # 39; MRIs can also be pretty scary – I have never considered myself a claustrophobic person, but I am in those machines. It's nerve-racking. Anything that helps prevent others would be fantastic. & # 39;
WHAT IS MULTIPLE SCLEROSE?
Multiple sclerosis (known as MS) is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body and causes nerve damage to the brain and spinal cord.
It is an incurable, lifelong disorder. The symptoms may be mild in some and more extreme in others, leading to severe disabilities.
MS affects 2.3 million people worldwide – including around 400,000 in the US and 100,000 in the UK.
It is more than twice as common among women as it is among men. A person is usually diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.
The condition is more often diagnosed in people of European descent.
The cause is not clear. There may be genes attached to it, but it is not directly hereditary. Smoking and low vitamin D values are also linked to MS.
Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty walking, vision problems, bladder problems, numbness or tingling, muscle stiffness and spasms, problems with balance and coordination, and problems with thinking, learning and planning.
The majority of patients have episodes of symptoms that disappear and come back, while some patients gradually get worse.
Symptoms can be managed with medication and therapy.
The condition shortens the average life expectancy by about five to ten years.
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