Researchers test electronic nose to screen for Barrett’s esophagus

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A novel e-nose showed high accuracy, especially for patients taking high-dose proton pump inhibitors.

Researchers from Mayo Clinic are evaluating a new, noninvasive screening method for Barrett's esophagus that uses an electronic nose device called an e-nose to analyze a patient's exhaled breath. The researchers presented their findings at Digestive Disease Week 2019.

Barrett's esophagus is the only known precursor for esophageal adenocarcinoma, which is not typically diagnosed until advanced stages and is the most common type of esophageal cancer in the U.S.

Photo of Juan P. Reyes Genere, M.D.
Juan P. Reyes Genere, M.D.

"Our device can detect volatile organic compounds associated with Barrett's esophagus," said lead study author Juan P. Reyes Genere, M.D., a gastroenterology fellow at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "Our study showed that a distinctive signature for Barrett's esophagus can be detected with fairly high accuracy."

Researchers found that the accuracy of the electronic nose was high, especially among patients taking a high-dose proton pump inhibitor, an acid reduction medicine.

"It was surprising to see that the dosage of acid-reducing medication made a significant difference to the accuracy," Dr. Reyes Genere said. "Stomach acid is a protective barrier that kills bacteria entering our gastrointestinal tract. Reducing stomach acid permits more bacterial colonization in the gut, thereby enhancing the volatile organic compound signatures." He said the effect was noticeably reduced in patients taking low-dose medications.

The research team is now testing this model in blinded samples.


This article was originally published in Forefront, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center's online magazine, which ceased publication in December 2020.