Read More: Live Science
A single breath into a newfangled breathalyzer is all doctors need to diagnose 17 different diseases, including lung cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple sclerosis, a new study found. Researchers invited about 1,400 people from five different countries to breathe into the device, which is still in its testing phases. The breathalyzer could identify each person's disease with 86 percent accuracy, the researchers said. The technology works because "each disease has its own unique breathprint," the researchers wrote in the study. The breathalyzer analyzes microscopic compounds — called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — to detect each condition. Testing for VOCs isn't a new approach; in 400 B.C., physicians learned that smelling a patient's bodily emissions could help with diagnoses. For instance, doctors used to smell the stools and urine of infant noblemen daily, the researchers said. But while excrement and other bodily substances, such as blood, contain VOCs, examining exhaled breath is the cheapest, easiest and least invasive way to test for the compounds, the researchers said.