Electronic Nose Sniffs Out Asthma

An artificial breath-sensor system dubbed the “electronic nose,” is able to accurately diagnose asthma, according to a study published in the April issue of the journal Chest.

The electronic nose detected nearly 90% of people with asthma compared to about 70% who were accurately diagnosed with lung function tests.

When combined with the fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO) test, the electronic nose did an even better job at detecting asthma.

The device works by identifying volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath. These VOCs produce a unique smell print for each individual and specific patterns are seen in people with asthma.

The study volunteers were tested by three different non-invasive methods: FENO, spirometry and the electronic nose.

The latter was able to correctly differentiate healthy people from those with physician-diagnosed asthma in 87.5% of the cases. FENO was able to correctly identify asthma in 79.2% of the study volunteers and spirometry discerned just 70.8 % of the people with asthma.

When the electronic nose and FENO were combined, the two tests together correctly identified almost 96% of the asthma cases.

Large studies are now required to definitively establish the diagnostic performance of the electronic nose.

Word on Health will continue to sniff out new information as it becomes available.