A new study starting soon will determine if a simple breath test could help detect Parkinson's.

The researchers, with funding from Parkinson's UK and the British Council, will study around 200 people and see if just by looking at their breath they can determine which have Parkinson's.

The scientists have already shown in a smaller study of 57 people that breath alone could differentiate people with Parkinson's and healthy individuals.

One in 500 people in the UK have Parkinson's - which can leave people struggling to walk, speak and sleep, and has no cure. There are 127,000 people in the UK with the condition, and an estimated 7.5 million worldwide.

Breath tests have been used to diagnose cancer, with dogs even being able to sniff out the disease, but this is the first time scientists have looked at what someone's breath could tell them about whether they have Parkinson's.

Professor Roger Barker, who is leading the clinical side of the study at the University of Cambridge, said:

"Looking at the breath of people with Parkinson's is an exciting new venture, we're hoping it will not only improve diagnosis, but also that it will tell us more about how Parkinson's develops and whether there are different types of Parkinson's. The biggest hope would be that there may be molecules in the breath of people with Parkinson's which throw up new options for drug targets."

Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research and Development at Parkinson's UK, which is part-funding the study, said:

"We've been struggling for decades to find a definitive diagnostic test for Parkinson's. Brain scans, blood tests and urine samples don't tell a doctor definitively if someone has the condition, and as a result there is often doubt, and even error, in the diagnosis at early stages. A simple breath test could provide the answer we're looking for."

Scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa, will work together on the project as part of the British Council's Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange programme (BIRAX) (1).

Alan Gemmell, Director of the British Council in Israel, which is also joint-funding the study, said:

"BIRAX combines the best of what Britain and Israel can offer the world. World-class scientists are working together to improve the lives of millions of people.

"We're delighted to be able to support new research, with Britain's leading medical research charities like Parkinson's UK, that will tackle some of the most challenging conditions."

For more information about Parkinson's UK research, and to donate, visit parkinsons.org.uk/research.