Detecting The Molecule That Causes Bad Breath

By integrating lead (II) acetate with a three-dimensional nanofiber web, South Korean researchers have developed a rapid and sensitive detector of bad breath.

AsianScientist (Jun. 19, 2018) – A team of scientists in South Korea has developed a sensor that detects bad breath. Their work is published in Analytical Chemistry.

According to the American Dental Association, half of all adults have suffered from bad breath, also known as halitosis, at some point in their lives. Although in most cases bad breath is simply an annoyance, it can sometimes be a symptom of more serious medical and dental problems.

However, many people are not aware that their breath is smelly unless somebody tells them, and doctors do not have a convenient, objective test for diagnosing halitosis.

In this study, researchers led by Associate Professor Kim Il-Doo have devised a sensor that detects tiny amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas, the compound responsible for bad breath, in human exhalations.

The team made use of lead(II) acetate, a chemical that turns brown when exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas. On its own, the chemical is not sensitive enough to detect trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide in human breath, at concentrations below two parts per million. Hence, the researchers anchored lead acetate to a three-dimensional (3D) nanofiber web, providing numerous sites for lead acetate and hydrogen sulfide gas to react.

By monitoring a color change from white to brown on the sensor surface, the researchers could detect hydrogen sulfide at concentrations as low as 400 parts per billion with the naked eye, in only one minute. In addition, the color-changing sensor detected traces of hydrogen sulfide added to breath samples from ten healthy volunteers, validating the specificity of the sensor in a real-life setting.

The article can be found at: Cha et al. (2018) Sub-Parts-per-Million Hydrogen Sulfide Colorimetric Sensor: Lead Acetate Anchored Nanofibers toward Halitosis Diagnosis.


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Shutterstock.
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