Identification of recent exacerbations in COPD patients by electronic nose

Job J M H van Bragt, Paul Brinkman, Rianne de Vries, Susanne J H Vijverberg, Els J M Weersink, Eric G Haarman, Frans H C de Jongh, Sigrid Kester, Annelies Lucas, Johannes C C M In 't Veen, Peter J Sterk, Elisabeth H D Bel, Anke H Maitland-van der Zee

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Molecular profiling of exhaled breath by electronic nose (eNose) might be suitable as a noninvasive tool that can help in monitoring of clinically unstable COPD patients. However, supporting data are still lacking. Therefore, as a first step, this study aimed to determine the accuracy of exhaled breath analysis by eNose to identify COPD patients who recently exacerbated, defined as an exacerbation in the previous 3 months. Data for this exploratory, cross-sectional study were extracted from the multicentre BreathCloud cohort. Patients with a physician-reported diagnosis of COPD (n=364) on maintenance treatment were included in the analysis. Exacerbations were defined as a worsening of respiratory symptoms requiring treatment with oral corticosteroids, antibiotics or both. Data analysis involved eNose signal processing, ambient air correction and statistics based on principal component (PC) analysis followed by linear discriminant analysis (LDA). Before analysis, patients were randomly divided into a training (n=254) and validation (n=110) set. In the training set, LDA based on PCs 1-4 discriminated between patients with a recent exacerbation or no exacerbation with high accuracy (receiver operating characteristic (ROC)-area under the curve (AUC)=0.98, 95% CI 0.97-1.00). This high accuracy was confirmed in the validation set (AUC=0.98, 95% CI 0.94-1.00). Smoking, health status score, use of inhaled corticosteroids or vital capacity did not influence these results. Exhaled breath analysis by eNose can discriminate with high accuracy between COPD patients who experienced an exacerbation within 3 months prior to measurement and those who did not. This suggests that COPD patients who recently exacerbated have their own exhaled molecular fingerprint that could be valuable for monitoring purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00307
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

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