Sydney: Australian scientists have discovered that the chemical make-up of malaria patients' breath has distinctive properties, making diagnosis by breath analysis a possibility, medical officials reported on Tuesday.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) ran tests on volunteers by infecting them with malaria under controlled circumstances, Efe news agency reported.
Higher levels of four sulphuric compounds were detected in direct correlation with the severity of the infection.
The chemicals are not detectable by the human nose, but with the proper instruments, the disease can be diagnosed earlier than with the standard blood examination method, CSIRO explained in a statement.
"What is exciting is that the increase in these chemicals were present at very early stages of infection, when many other methods would have been unable to detect the parasite in the body of people infected with malaria," CSIRO research group leader Stephen Trowell said.
Researchers are confident that this discovery will help develop a fast and economical system of malaria detection.
"We are also working with colleagues to develop very specific, sensitive and cheap biosensors that could be used in the clinic and the field to test breath for malaria," Trowell added.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 200 million cases of malaria and half a million malaria deaths were recorded in 2013.