September 01, 2011
1 min read

Breath test may help reduce flu vaccine shortages

Mashir A. J Breath Res. 2011; doi:10.1088/1752-7155/5/3/037107.

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A novel, non-invasive breath test that measures the biomolecules that accumulate in response to the H1N1 influenza virus, could help to ease future vaccine shortages by identifying the people who have already been infected with the influenza virus, according to a study published online this week.

The researchers, from Cleveland Clinic and Syft Technologies, enrolled 11 healthy health care workers in their study; nine were given the live attenuated H1N1 vaccine (FluMist, MedImmune) and then administered the breath test on each of the following 7 days.

The breath test examined exhaled nitric oxide (NO) – a biomolecule whose production has previously been linked to influenza and viral infection and has been speculated to play a beneficial role in viral clearance. The results showed a peak in NO levels in all vaccinees on the third day after vaccination. There were no significant differences in NO levels on any other day.

Of the 11 other compounds examined in the study, only one compound – isoprene - showed an elevated level, again on day 3. Increased levels of isoprene, a compound produced within the body and a major constituent of exhaled breath, have been reported to reflect oxidative stress in the airways.

Previous findings have shown that the highest number, and severity, of symptoms related to a H1N1 infection occur on day 3. These findings, along with this research, suggest this is when an immune response is triggered in the body.

The researchers said that because earlier published data suggested that many people in Europe who received the pandemic influenza vaccine were already infected, this test may reduce unnecessary immunizations.

The researchers noted that further work is needed to identify other compounds associated with an immune response that were only touched upon in this study, as well as identifying the exact mechanism underlying the increase in exhaled NO as a result of the live vaccine.

Disclosures: The researchers noted the work was supported in part by a Third Frontier grant from the Ohio Department of Development.

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