Electronic nose can sniff out cause of lung attack

Electronic nose can sniff out cause of lung attack

A new electronic nose can sniff out the cause of a lung attack. This is what Wouter van Geffen, a pulmonologist at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), has discovered. In future, the electronic nose will enable doctors to administer the right medication faster, thus improving patients’ treatment. Van Geffen has published an article about his research in Journal of Breath Research. The electronic nose was developed by The eNose Company, a Dutch company from Zutphen.

A lung attack occurs when the disease COPD flares up. Most lung attacks are relatively mild, but they do sometimes lead to death. They can be treated by administering medication to expand the airways, anti-inflammatory drugs and oxygen. As they are often caused by viruses or bacteria, it is important to establish the cause quickly to ensure prompt treatment with antibiotics or, if available, virus inhibitors. More than 350,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from COPD, and an estimated 6,500 die each year from this disease, many from a lung attack.

Virus or bacterium

Van Geffen and his team studied 43 patients who had been admitted to hospital with a serious lung attack. The researchers determined the cause of each attack with the expensive and generally time-consuming techniques that are currently available. They also gave the patients an electronic nose to hold and instructed them to breathe slowly through it for a couple of minutes. Sensors in the electronic nose analysed the air and determined whether the lung attack was caused by a virus or a bacterium. The researchers then compared the results from the electronic nose with those from the laboratory tests currently used.

Less complicated tests

This is the first study to show that the electronic nose could help treat COPD patients who are suffering from a lung attack. The test worked for the majority of the patients. These results are important, says Van Geffen: ‘The electronic nose allows you to quickly sniff out the cause of a lung attack. This will help treat patients faster and better.’ As this does not require such complicated tests, the technology could also be used in hospitals around the world with fewer resources.

The electronic nose ‘Aeonose’ was developed by The eNose Company from Zutphen.

Link to the publication: http://iopscience.iop.org/1752-7163/10/3/036001

Source: press release UMCG