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Research Portfolio


Development of a breath test for the diagnosis of epilepsy and the prediction of seizures



grant amount:


lead investigator:

Dr Ilaria Belluomo


-Professor George B Hanna
-Professor Matthew Walker


Imperial College London


For many people with epilepsy, it can take a long time to receive a diagnosis, meaning that there is a delay to receiving treatments and support. At least one in five people are also misdiagnosed with epilepsy, meaning they may be taking incorrect or unnecessary treatments.

Whilst some people with epilepsy can identify triggers for their seizures, for many they are unpredictable and can happen unexpectedly. This can make planning activities difficult and increase stress and anxiety.

We can learn a lot about people’s health by analysing small molecules in their breath and on their skin. These molecules provide a picture of what is happening in the body at a precise moment. It is quick and easy to collect these molecules through a breath test and skin swab.

"An accurate diagnosis of epilepsy and prediction of seizure onset can enormously improve quality of life of people with epilepsy. What these two problems have in common is the lack of non-invasive tests possible to perform before, during and after seizure. For this reason, non-invasive tests targeting volatile molecules emitted in breath and by skin can be a revolutionary tool in clinical epilepsy.

The Study

We know from previous studies that:

  • Some breath and skin molecules are altered in people who have seizures.
  • The amount of some of these molecules can be different before and after someone has a seizure.

This project will collect breath and skin samples from a group of people who have different types of seizures, as well as from a group of people who do not have seizures. The team will analyse these samples and look for molecules that are present in different amounts in people with and without seizures. They will also identify any molecules that change in level after a seizure, as these could be used to design a test to predict seizures.


The development of a breath or skin test could help identify the type of seizure someone is having, meaning they could be given the most appropriate treatment. In the future, the team hope to develop these tests into a portable device which could be used both to diagnose epilepsy and to predict when someone might have a seizure.