Insights into 'fermentonomics': Evaluation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in human disease using an electronic 'e-nose'

R. P. Arasaradnam, N. Quraishi, I. Kyrou, C. U. Nwokolo, M. Joseph, S. Kumar, K. D. Bardhan, J. A. Covington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is a common requirement in industry for which numerous methods are available. The electronic nose (e-nose) is an example. Rather than individual chemicals, the e-nose recognizes the 'aroma fingerprint' created by the collection of VOCs in samples, comparable to the human nose. We report on a novel application for gastrointestinal and metabolic medicine, and compare its results to mass spectrometry. Fermentation of undigested foods in the large bowel by its resident bacteria results in the creation of several chemicals including volatile gases that influence colonic and metabolic health. Using urine samples, preliminary results indicate the ability of the e-nose to distinguish between controls and those with inflammatory bowel disease or diabetes (separation rate of ∼97). This emphasizes the different patterns of fermentation. Our term 'fermentonomics' describes the investigation and analysis of the fermentome by such non-invasive means. Such an approach has potentially wide application in medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-91
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Medical Engineering and Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011


  • Diabetes
  • Electronic nose
  • Fermentome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Volatile organic compounds


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