Review article: breath analysis in inflammatory bowel diseases

Kurada S, Alkhouri N, Fiocchi C, Dweik R, Rieder F. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Feb;41(4):329-41. doi: 10.1111/apt.13050. Review. PMID: 25523187

There is an urgent need for cheap, reproducible, easy to perform and specific biomarkers for diagnosis, differentiation and stratification of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients. Technical advances allow for the determination of volatile organic compounds in the human breath to differentiate between health and disease.

Review and discuss medical literature on volatile organic compounds in exhaled human breath in GI disorders, focusing on diagnosis and differentiation of IBD.

A systematic search in PubMed, Ovid Medline and Scopus was completed using appropriate keywords. In addition, a bibliography search of each article was performed.

Mean breath pentane, ethane, propane, 1-octene, 3-methylhexane, 1-decene and NO levels were elevated (P < 0.05 to P < 10(-7)) and mean breath 1-nonene, (E)-2-nonene, hydrogen sulphide and methane were decreased in IBD compared to healthy controls (P = 0.003 to P < 0.001). A combined panel of 3 volatile organic compounds (octene, (E)-2-nonene and decene) showed the best discrimination between paediatric IBD and controls (AUC 0.96). Breath condensate cytokines were higher in IBD compared to healthy individuals (P < 0.008). Breath pentane, ethane, propane, isoprene and NO levels correlated with disease activity in IBD patients. Breath condensate interleukin-1β showed an inverse relation with clinical disease activity.

Breath analysis in IBD is a promising approach that is not yet ready for routine clinical use, but data from other gastrointestinal diseases suggest the feasibility for use of this technology in clinical practice. Well-designed future trials, incorporating the latest breath detection techniques, need to determine the exact breath metabolome pattern linked to diagnosis and phenotype of IBD.