Breathomics in Diagnosis of Paediatric Patients with Persistent Asthma - EMJ


Use of Breathomics in the Diagnosis of Paediatric Patients with Persistent Asthma

2 Mins
*João Cavaleiro Rufo

The author has declared no conflicts of interest.

EMJ Allergy Immunol. ;3[1]:78-79. Abstract Review No. AR6.

Each article is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 License.

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In paediatric asthma, symptoms tend to appear during the first 6 years of life and may be associated with different disease phenotypes and endotypes, each responding differently to specific therapy. Therefore, asthma is more commonly used as a concept term comprising a set of non-specific symptoms (wheezing, dyspnoea, and dry cough), while proper identification of the pathophysiological origin of the associated symptoms is considered more important. This identification allows the delivery of a more targeted therapy to the patient, consequently reducing the risk of exacerbations.1 For instance, persistent eosinophilic asthma with a characteristic Type 2 T helper cell inflammation is usually responsive to inhaled corticosteroid therapy, while neutrophilic phenotypes do not usually respond as well.

However, the currently available diagnostic tools are unable to determine these specific phenotypes at the point of care, and hence there is a need for new and improved asthma biomarkers to be implemented in clinical practice. Breathomics, the measurement of metabolites in the exhaled breath,2 is currently being hypothesised as a possible technology to solve this problem, and several studies concerning measurement of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in exhaled breath have been published and significantly revised.3,4 These reviews underlined the promising results of electronic nose (eNose) technologies as fast, portable, and sufficiently sensitive instruments for analysing VOC in exhaled breath samples.

For this reason, eNose breathomics was presented at this year’s European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) Congress in Munich, Germany as a technology that can improve asthma diagnosis.5 In short, exhaled breath condensate samples collected from paediatric patients were processed and analysed using eNose breathomics technology. A multivariate analysis was performed and a hierarchical model was developed to segment different VOC profiles, creating two well-defined clusters. The results showed that individuals with persistent asthma who required corticosteroid therapy were significantly agglomerated in a single cluster, thus highlighting that breathomics may be useful in identifying Type 2 T helper cell eosinophilic asthma phenotypes. Moreover, the diagnostic values were shown to surpass those from spirometry with bronchodilation, which is currently the most widely used technology to corroborate an asthma diagnosis.

Despite these promising results, external validation studies are still needed to completely understand the effectiveness of breathomics in a real clinical context. Furthermore, an eventual standardisation of the methods and procedures for exhaled breath sample processing is required, among other methodological questions that still need answering. Nevertheless, breathomics may be the solution to achieve one more goal in the gargantuan but honourable mission that has been assigned to researchers and clinicians alike: to improve asthma diagnosis and deliver the best possible treatment for patients.

Pavord ID et al. After asthma: Redefining airways diseases. Lancet. 2018;391(10118):350-400. Bos LD et al. Breathomics in the setting of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016;138(4):970-6. Cavaleiro Rufo J et al. Volatile organic compounds in asthma diagnosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Allergy. 2016;71(2):175-88. Neerincx AH et al. Breathomics from exhaled volatile organic compounds in pediatric asthma. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2017;52(12):1616-27. Cavaleiro Rufo J et al. Electronic nose analysis of exhaled breath condensate is able to identify paediatric individuals in need of corticosteroid therapy. Abstract 0150. EAACI Congress, 26-30 May, 2018.