Electronic nose could spot when a lung transplant is failing

A summary of research presented at the ERS International Congress 2021 [Photo courtesy of Nynke Wijbenga]

A device known as an electronic nose could be used to help spot when a lung transplant is failing, according to new research.

Around 50% of lung transplants can fail within 5 years. It can take several months for doctors to check if a lung transplant is failing; this is known as chronic lung allograft dysfunction (CLAD). Electronic nose technology could play an important role in spotting the signs of transplant failure early on.


What did the study look at?

The study used a device called an eNose that can detect chemicals in the breath of patients. These chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can vary depending on what is happening in our body. When a person breathes into the eNose, sensors can detect the pattern of VOCs. A machine then analyses these patterns to identify different lung conditions.

91 people who had received a lung transplant in the Netherlands were involved in the study. The study participants had been living with a lung transplant for an average of three years. eNose measurements were taken between July and November 2020. The eNose measurements were compared with results the consultants had already found from usual tests to spot failing lung transplants.

What do the results show?

68 patients included in the study had stable lung transplants and 23 patients had CLAD. In 86% of the cases, the eNose was able to correctly identify people who had a stable lung transplant, compared to people whose lung transplant was failing.

Why is this important?

The findings could enable doctors to spot at an early stage when a lung transplant is failing so that they could provide treatments to prevent it from getting worse. However, more research is needed before the eNose could be used in the clinic for this purpose.

This study was presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress in September 2021 but has not yet been published. This means it has not gone through a detailed peer review process used when research is published in a scientific journal.

Read the original research paper


Abstract no: OA2914 “Electronic nose for detecting chronic lung allograft dysfunction in lung transplant recipients”, by Nynke Wijbenga et al; Presented in session, “Optimising outcomes of lung transplantation: how to move forward?” at 09:30-11:00 CEST on Tuesday 7 September 2021. Access the abstract online: