The Gas Safety Trust (GST) has published a report which considers current research into new biomarkers for detecting carbon monoxide (CO), and how we can go further to make detection easier and more certain.

Diagnosing CO poisoning is notoriously difficult, as it produces common, non-specific symptoms such as headaches and nausea and mimics other, more common ailments such as flu and food poisoning. Accidental CO poisoning is considered rare, but the GST says that it is not as rare as people think, and it is preventable.

CO is a poisonous gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. This makes it difficult for those exposed to know that they have been poisoned and what they have been poisoned by. A healthcare professional is likely to be the first person to be approached by someone suffering from CO poisoning, and making an accurate diagnosis is important to prevent further exposure.

The most commonly used biomarker associated with the identification of exposure to CO, carboxyhaemoglobin, is now considered less useful than previously thought, and cases of exposure are being missed. The need to identify new biomarkers has been suggested, which will ultimately assist clinicians in making a diagnosis of CO poisoning and help them in their assessment of patient outcome and referral decisions.

In response to this, the GST has published a report which considers current research into new biomarkers, what lessons could be learned from similar areas of study and how we might explore and challenge thinking to answer questions relating to the neurological effects associated with CO exposure. This report, which follows on from a workshop held in September 2017, can be found on the organisation's CO Portal.