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Prototype of 'Electronic Nose' Successfully Diagnoses Asthma

Device achieves better diagnosis rate than standard lung function and FENO tests

WEDNESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- The prototype of an "electronic nose," a device that analyzes exhaled breath for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), is able to diagnose asthma better than standard lung function tests and fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO), and its diagnostic performance can be increased when it is combined with FENO, according to a study in the April issue of Chest.

Paolo Montuschi, M.D., of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, and colleagues tested the device in 27 patients with diagnosed intermittent and persistent mild asthma, and in 24 subjects without asthma. The researchers used two exhaled breath sampling procedures to study differences in the device accuracy for exhaled total air and exhaled alveolar air. The researchers compared the device's diagnostic performance to conventional lung function tests and FENO. In addition, seven patients with asthma and seven without participated in a study with mass spectrometry fingerprinting to independently assess between group discrimination.

The researchers found that the best results came from the electronic nose analysis of alveolar air samples. Diagnostic performance for the electronic nose, FENO, and lung function testing were 87.5, 79.2, and 70.8 percent, respectively. Combining the electronic nose and FENO produced a diagnostic performance of 95.8 percent. The mass spectrometry fingerprints of VOCs could discriminate between the patients with and without asthma.

"The electronic nose has a high diagnostic performance that can be increased when combined with FENO. Large studies are now required to definitively establish the diagnostic performance of the electronic nose. Whether this integrated noninvasive approach will translate into an early diagnosis of asthma has to be clarified," the authors write.

One study author reported receiving research funding and being on scientific advisory boards for several pharmaceutical companies.

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