New device to test alcohol levels in blood

SAN FRANCISCO:A San Francisco-based company has won a U.S. government-sponsored competition with alcohol monitoring devices that can be worn on the wrist, the latest milestone in the development of wearable technologies that monitor and diagnose medical conditions.

The BACtrack Skyn wearable alcohol biosensor.

BACtrack, a privately held medical device maker, took the $200,000 top prize in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Wearable Biosensor Challenge with its wristband monitor, which measures blood alcohol levels via sweat on the skin.

The product, dubbed BACtrack Skyn, is currently awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval and is expected to be on the market by the end of the year for $99.

Dr. George Koob, head of the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said he expected the device to be a valuable resource for alcohol research community. “It can help doctors accurately measure a patient’s drinking history, and not just depend on the most recent tests,” Dr. Koob said. “This can help a lot with the treatment.” Medical, law enforcement and transportation officials have long sought better technology for detection of blood alcohol levels.

“The blood alcohol monitoring devices used in legal and medical circles are big and bulky, like a ball and chain for the ones using it,” said Keith Nothacker, president of BACtrack. The device in its current form will not, however, be a substitute for breath analysers or blood tests used by law enforcement, because the device does not provide real-time blood-alcohol levels. — Reuters