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Sniff out obstructive sleep apnoea: Electronic nose as novel screening tool?


 An electronic nose may become a screening tool for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnoea in clinical practice, German researchers report at the 20th Annual Congress of the European Respiratory Society.

The application of breath tests as a "smell-prints" of respiratory diseases is an exciting new field which may aid the diagnosis of different conditions such as lung cancer or even non respiratory malignancies.

"Recently it has been shown that electronic noses can distinguish between volatile organic compounds (VOC) of patients with asthma, COPD, lung cancer and smokers," explains Dr. Timm Greulich, Philipps University Marburg, Germany.

During the past few years the analysis of exhaled breath (EB) has been proposed as a new method to obtain information about inflammatory diseases of the airways. EB contains a complex mixture of several hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which has been established using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Electronic noses represent an innovative method of VOC sampling as these devices allow the online recognition of complex VOC mixtures via composite nanosensor arrays in combination with analyses using learning algorithms. Each sensor represents different fractions of the VOC mixture, and the arrays may exhibit good discrimination performance along with high sensitivity, short response time and reproducibility.

Currently, the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) requires the demonstration of apnoea by polygraphy. "This is technically demanding, cost-intensive and time-consuming."

"In our study of 40 patients with OSAS and 16 controls, exhaled breath analysis could reliably distinguish between patients with obstructive sleep apnoea and controls, as confirmed by polysomnography. We therefore believe that the electronic nose could become a valid screening tool in the diagnosis of OSA."


Abstract Number: 5412

Title: "An electronic nose can distinguish between patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and healthy controls."

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