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Written by: Vester Gravley on Thursday, August 20, 2015 Posted in:

The respiratory therapist is certainly found on the front lines of some hellacious halitosis. Some breath odors are helpful; giving clues to certain patient conditions; sweet smelling breath perhaps indicating the presence of ketones or the distinctive odor of pseudomonas for example.

In recent years the technology of breath measurement or “breathprint”, as some have branded it, has begun to show real promise for point-of-care diagnostics. Several recent studies demonstrate the potential efficacy and application of Exhaled Breath Condensate (EBC) and Exhaled-Breath Metabolomics. Concerning COPD, an abstract found in the European Respiratory Journal notes that “Biomarkers in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may be useful in aiding diagnosis, defining specific phenotypes of disease, monitoring exacerbations and evaluating the effects of drugs. Exhaled breath condensate is a noninvasive means of sampling the airways, allowing biomarkers of airway inflammation and oxidative stress to be measured.”

Another study highlights that “Exhaled breath condensate (EBC) analysis…can be used to evaluate…a large number of mediators of inflammation, including adenosine, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, isoprostanes, leukotrienes, prostanoids, nitrogen oxides, peptides and cytokines…shown to be related to the underlying asthma and its severity.” There is similar promising evidence for a range of conditions, including: lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, acute decompensated heart failure and obesity.

It is exciting to contemplate a day when spirometry will not only provided pulmonary function data but contribute to the diagnosis of various disease states through exhaled chemical markers. When this technology fully comes of age the “breathprint” may be lifesaver.

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