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Scientists develop method to diagnose peptic ulcer by recognising breath patterns

Scientists from SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata, Department of Science and Technology, have developed a non-invasive method of recognising breath patterns that can help rapid, one-step diagnosis and classification of various gastric disorders like dyspepsia, gastritis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Prof. Manik Pradhan and his research team at S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Kolkata, used a pattern-recognition-based clustering approach that can selectively distinguish the breath of peptic ulcer and other gastric conditions from that of healthy individuals.

The team used machine learning (ML) protocol to extract the correct information from the large complex breathomics data sets generated from exhaled breath analysis. In a paper published in the European Journal of mass spectroscopy, they implemented the clustering approach to recognise unique breath-pattens, breathograms, and “breathprints” signatures. This helped in a clear reflection of the specific gastric condition of a person along with three different risk zones for discrimination of early and late-stage gastric conditions and precise transition from one disease state to another.

The breath patterns generated by the patients are irrespective of the patient’s basal metabolic rates (BMR) and other confounding factors such as age, sex, smoking habits, or lifestyle.

The research carried out at the Technical Research Centre (TRC) at S. N. Bose Centre, funded by the DST, involved a project student Ms Sayoni Bhattacharya and project scientists Dr Abhijit Maity and Dr Anil Mahato, who worked in collaboration with Dr Sujit Chaudhuri, a renowned medical scientist and Gastroenterologist at AMRI Hospital, Kolkata.

The scientists said that over the decades, few volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or metabolites in the exhaled breath have been proposed for the non-invasive diagnosis of gastric conditions. However, a particular VOC is related to multiple clinical surroundings and is likely to be affected by comorbid conditions, suggesting a single molecular marker is not suitable for distinguishing various gastric complications.

Prof. Pradhan, who has been working on breath analysis for several years first time unravelled missing links between various gastric conditions and pattern-recognition-based clustering method. These missing links have helped in the non-invasive diagnosis of various gastric disorders through a single breath test without going for painful endoscopy.

According to the scientists, the fundamental concept behind the idea was based on the fact that the overall effect of the compounds produced endogenously by various biochemical reactions and intracellular/extracellular processes associated with the pathogenesis of different gastric phenotypes is reflected in the specific masses of the breathprints. Hence, the method obviates the necessity of identifying molecular species in exhaled breath for diagnosing and classifying peptic ulcers.

The scientists have developed a prototype device called “Pyro-Breath” that clinically validated it in a hospital environment and patented it. The relevant technology has been transferred through NRDC, New Delhi to a startup company for potential commercialisation.

This can open up new non-invasive avenues for early detection, selective classification, and assessment of the progress of various gastric complications and could help widespread population screening of infants, children, pregnant women, and seniors.

Peptic ulcer disease is currently a major medico-social issue that has attracted special attention around the world.

The most significant risk factor for developing this disease is bacterial infection with Helicobacter pylori.

Patients with peptic ulcer encircling both duodenal and gastric ulcer may remain asymptomatic or symptomatic, and due to undefined risk factors along with lack of specific symptoms at the early stages, the diagnosis is often delayed, leading to poor prognosis and high rates of recurrence of the diseases.

Conventional painful and invasive endoscopic procedures are not suitable for early detection of the acute onset and progression of peptic ulcer as well as various gastric complications. Moreover, the conventional endoscopic methodology is not suitable for general population-based screening and consequently, many common people with complex gastric phenotypes remain undiagnosed.

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