Electronic nose 'spots causes of asthma'

An electronic nose that can detect different sub-groups of asthma could pave the way for more personalised and effective care, suggests a European study.

An electronic nose could help personalise asthma treatment (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
An electronic nose could help personalise asthma treatment (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

Electronic nose (eNose) technology may be able to detect the particular sub-group of asthma that a child has from a simple breath test, according to research presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) congress on Sunday.

The study, part of the U-BIOPRED project, identified five 'clusters' of asthma types, which could lead to better understanding of the differences between individuals with asthma.

It has long been known that there are many different types of asthma, each caused by a variety of underlying molecular mechanisms.

Researchers are focusing on categorising these different causes into distinct phenotypes, which, if they can be consistently and reliably diagnosed, would allow more personalised and effective care, tailored to the underlying cause of a patient’s asthma.

The eNose, which works by analysing the exhaled breath of an asthma patient for certain organic substances, may offer a way to do this.

'More tailored treatment'

In the study, the device analysed differences in the volatile organic compounds in the exhaled breath of 106 children with asthma or wheeze.

The results revealed five distinct sub-groups, each containing patients with similar breath profiles. This suggests that ‘metabolomics in exhaled air is suitable for phenotyping of airways disease in childhood’, say the researchers.

Lead author Paul Brinkman, from the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said: ‘We know electronic noses have the potential to help us understand more about a range of lung diseases.

‘In this study, we have shown that they are an effective method of understanding more about the subtle differences seen between people with asthma. By classifying asthma into different subgroups, we might be able to provide much more tailored treatment for each individual.’

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