16 VOCs could distinguish between healthy and asthma patients with a sensitivity of 100%, specificity of 91%

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in exhaled air are released during inflammation in response to oxidative stress as a result of activated leukocytes. VOC profiles in exhaled air could distinguish between asthma patients and healthy subjects. In this study from Switzerland, the researchers aimed to classify new asthma endotypes by combining inflammatory mechanisms investigated by VOC profiles in exhaled air and clinical information of asthma patients.

Breath samples were analyzed for VOC profiles by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry from 195 asthma patients and 40 healthy controls.

Out of 954 identified molecules, 16 VOCs could distinguish between healthy and asthma subjects with a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 91%. Cluster analysis based on VOCs in exhaled air, clinical parameters and FEV1, resulted in the formation of 7 different asthma endotype clusters.

This study demonstrates that both, clinical presentation of asthma and inflammatory mechanisms in the airways should be considered for classification of asthma subtypes.


Defining adult asthma endotypes by clinical features and patterns of volatile organic compounds in exhaled air. Norbert Meyer et al. Respiratory Research 2014, 15:136 doi:10.1186/s12931-014-0136-8.

Image source: OpenClipArt, public domain.

As some of you know, I am the Editor of the World Allergy Organization (WAO) Small Airways Working Group "What's New?" monthly summary. It features the top 3 asthma/small airways articles each month. The article above is part of the summaries. The archive is here: http://www.worldallergy.org/small_airways_group/reviews/archive.php

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