The Importance of Breathomics

In summary, Breathomics is the study of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the human breath. Analysis of human breath can be used in clinical research to identify or explain physiological mechanisms or to diagnose respiratory conditions. 

Exhaled breath samples or condensate samples are analysed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. These methods quantify VOCs in the human breath and separate them in order to identify them. 

Breathomics has come into the limelight in recent times with the introduction of a new pandemic, Covid-19. It is thought that breath analysis will be key to accurately diagnose patients early on in their disease to meet healthcare provision demands in the coming years. GC-IMS technology can detect positive coronavirus cases from exhaled breath biomarkers. 

There have been medical and scientific studies on using breath analysis for Covid testing including this commentary from Future Science: “Exhaled breath contains thousands of VOCs, which may include not only exhaled products but also remnants of the virus itself. To be able to analyse these routinely a metabolomics approach needs to be taken to understand the distribution of metabolites within the samples and to be able to identify significant biomarkers. Breath analysis has routinely been used for detection of alcohol in breath but also in more clinical settings.” 

Breathomics is also important in the diagnosis of many other respiratory diseases and illnesses. Antibiotics are becoming less effective and over-subscribed, increasing the risk of becoming exposed to more harmful infectious diseases. It is a global challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Testing human breath is a low contact, non-invasive way for early detection of diseases that in the future can give healthcare professionals more knowledge to prescribe a more accurate and effective medicine to their patients. 

Imspex Medical has been working on a Horizon 2020 project using their ground-breaking GC-IMS technology, Breathspec. The ultra-high sensitivity breath analysis is rapid and accurate, minimising the misuse and overuse of antibotics and improving diagnosis of infections. You can read more about the project here and coverage from Business News Wales here

Breathomics is hugely important to the development of diagnostic healthcare, optimising treatments for patients with fast and accurate diagnosis. There have been a huge amount of advances in the setting of asthma and chronic pulmonary disease particularly with the use of spirometry tests. The future of Breathomics is to be able to diagnose life threatening conditions such as lung cancer with 100% specificity and numerous studies have been shared worldwide over the years as far back as 2013 via NCBI in this paper Exhaled breath analysis for lung cancer: “Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for 1.37 million deaths in 2008. Early diagnosis (Stage I) is associated with far better survival (67% 5-year survival rate) than later stage disease (Stage III, 23% 5-year survival rate). Symptoms alone cannot be relied upon to indicate the presence of lung cancer as they often do not appear until the cancer is relatively advanced. New techniques to detect disease earlier in high risk populations of asymptomatic individuals would be expected to significantly improve survival.”

We believe that with more research, analysis and testing that Breathomics can be even more crucial to today’s healthcare system. To find out more about our technology or to discuss with us in more detail, take a look here