The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. However, despite affecting such a significant portion of the population and attracting important research, its fundamental causes are still not fully understood.
The strongest risk factors for asthma known so far include genetic predisposition, environmental exposure, allergens, irritants and respiratory infections.
A crucial step toward improving patient management and patient outcomes would be to achieve the ability to predict and characterize those who are most likely to have an exacerbation episode, despite optimal therapy.
“The causes of the exacerbations that occur in those suffering from severe asthma remain a mystery; elucidating these will represent a major advance that could lead to preventive measures and better targeted treatments,” Fan Chung, PhD, professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said in a press release.
Ian Adcock, PhD, professor of respiratory cell & molecular biology at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) believes the answer may lie in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
“VOCs analysis of exacerbations will enable a more rapid translation toward point of care analysis and correct treatment of patients,” Adcock said.
VOCs in breath have been shown to correlate to inflammatory subtypes in asthma, and evidence also has indicated they can discriminate between viral and bacterial infections, crucial for achieving optimal treatment.
“Characterizing asthma exacerbations and predicting how patients will respond in certain situations will lead to improved treatment regimes, reduced hospital admissions and emergency treatments, and improved quality of life for asthma patients,” said Billy Boyle, Owlstone’s co-founder and chief executive officer.
Owlstone Medical currently uses a combination of sensor platforms, namely the Respiration Collector for In Vitro Analysis (ReCIVA) and Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometer (FAIMS) platforms, to accurately detect VOCs in breath.
“Owlstone Medical was created specifically to advance our disease breathalyzer and we will be providing both clinical and academic researchers and pharma companies with access to our technology as part of our services offering, to enable the development of more effective treatments and ultimately better patient outcomes,” Boyle said.