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1.  Smelling the Diagnosis: The Electronic Nose as Diagnostic Tool in Inflammatory Arthritis. A Case-Reference Study 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(3):e0151715.
To investigate whether exhaled breath analysis using an electronic nose can identify differences between inflammatory joint diseases and healthy controls.
In a cross-sectional study, the exhaled breath of 21 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 18 psoriatic arthritis (PsA) patients with active disease was compared to 21 healthy controls using an electronic nose (Cyranose 320; Smiths Detection, Pasadena, CA, USA). Breathprints were analyzed with principal component analysis, discriminant analysis, and area under curve (AUC) of receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curves. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were identified by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC-MS), and relationships between breathprints and markers of disease activity were explored.
Breathprints of RA patients could be distinguished from controls with an accuracy of 71% (AUC 0.75, 95% CI 0.60–0.90, sensitivity 76%, specificity 67%). Breathprints from PsA patients were separated from controls with 69% accuracy (AUC 0.77, 95% CI 0.61–0.92, sensitivity 72%, specificity 71%). Distinction between exhaled breath of RA and PsA patients exhibited an accuracy of 69% (AUC 0.72, 95% CI 0.55–0.89, sensitivity 71%, specificity 72%). There was a positive correlation in RA patients of exhaled breathprints with disease activity score (DAS28) and number of painful joints. GC-MS identified seven key VOCs that significantly differed between the groups.
Exhaled breath analysis by an electronic nose may play a role in differential diagnosis of inflammatory joint diseases. Data from this study warrant external validation.
PMCID: PMC4794231  PMID: 26982569
2.  Personalized Respiratory Medicine: Exploring the Horizon, Addressing the Issues. Summary of a BRN-AJRCCM Workshop Held in Barcelona on June 12, 2014 
This Pulmonary Perspective summarizes the content and main conclusions of an international workshop on personalized respiratory medicine coorganized by the Barcelona Respiratory Network ( and the AJRCCM in June 2014. It discusses (1) its definition and historical, social, legal, and ethical aspects; (2) the view from different disciplines, including basic science, epidemiology, bioinformatics, and network/systems medicine; (3) the bottlenecks and opportunities identified by some currently ongoing projects; and (4) the implications for the individual, the healthcare system and the pharmaceutical industry. The authors hope that, although it is not a systematic review on the subject, this document can be a useful reference for researchers, clinicians, healthcare managers, policy-makers, and industry parties interested in personalized respiratory medicine.
PMCID: PMC4351599  PMID: 25531178
3.  Prediction of Long-Term Benefits of Inhaled Steroids by Phenotypic Markers in Moderate-to-Severe COPD: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(12):e0143793.
The decline in lung function can be reduced by long-term inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) treatment in subsets of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We aimed to identify which clinical, physiological and non-invasive inflammatory characteristics predict the benefits of ICS on lung function decline in COPD.
Analysis was performed in 50 steroid-naive compliant patients with moderate to severe COPD (postbronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), 30–80% of predicted, compatible with GOLD stages II-III), age 45–75 years, >10 packyears smoking and without asthma. Patients were treated with fluticasone propionate (500 μg bid) or placebo for 2.5 years. Postbronchodilator FEV1, dyspnea and health status were measured every 3 months; lung volumes, airway hyperresponsiveness (PC20), and induced sputum at 0, 6 and 30 months. A linear mixed effect model was used for analysis of this hypothesis generating study.
Significant predictors of attenuated FEV1-decline by fluticasone treatment compared to placebo were: fewer packyears smoking, preserved diffusion capacity, limited hyperinflation and lower inflammatory cell counts in induced sputum (p<0.04).
Long-term benefits of ICS on lung function decline in patients with moderate-to-severe COPD are most pronounced in patients with fewer packyears, and less severe emphysema and inflammation. These data generate novel hypotheses on phenotype-driven therapy in COPD.
Trial Registration NCT00158847
PMCID: PMC4699453  PMID: 26659582
4.  EBI metagenomics in 2016 - an expanding and evolving resource for the analysis and archiving of metagenomic data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;44(Database issue):D595-D603.
EBI metagenomics ( is a freely available hub for the analysis and archiving of metagenomic and metatranscriptomic data. Over the last 2 years, the resource has undergone rapid growth, with an increase of over five-fold in the number of processed samples and consequently represents one of the largest resources of analysed shotgun metagenomes. Here, we report the status of the resource in 2016 and give an overview of new developments. In particular, we describe updates to data content, a complete overhaul of the analysis pipeline, streamlining of data presentation via the website and the development of a new web based tool to compare functional analyses of sequence runs within a study. We also highlight two of the higher profile projects that have been analysed using the resource in the last year: the oceanographic projects Ocean Sampling Day and Tara Oceans.
PMCID: PMC4702853  PMID: 26582919
7.  Modules, networks and systems medicine for understanding disease and aiding diagnosis 
Genome Medicine  2014;6(10):82.
Many common diseases, such as asthma, diabetes or obesity, involve altered interactions between thousands of genes. High-throughput techniques (omics) allow identification of such genes and their products, but functional understanding is a formidable challenge. Network-based analyses of omics data have identified modules of disease-associated genes that have been used to obtain both a systems level and a molecular understanding of disease mechanisms. For example, in allergy a module was used to find a novel candidate gene that was validated by functional and clinical studies. Such analyses play important roles in systems medicine. This is an emerging discipline that aims to gain a translational understanding of the complex mechanisms underlying common diseases. In this review, we will explain and provide examples of how network-based analyses of omics data, in combination with functional and clinical studies, are aiding our understanding of disease, as well as helping to prioritize diagnostic markers or therapeutic candidate genes. Such analyses involve significant problems and limitations, which will be discussed. We also highlight the steps needed for clinical implementation.
PMCID: PMC4254417  PMID: 25473422
8.  Glucose prediction by analysis of exhaled metabolites – a systematic review 
BMC Anesthesiology  2014;14:46.
In critically ill patients, glucose control with insulin mandates time– and blood–consuming glucose monitoring. Blood glucose level fluctuations are accompanied by metabolomic changes that alter the composition of volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are detectable in exhaled breath. This review systematically summarizes the available data on the ability of changes in VOC composition to predict blood glucose levels and changes in blood glucose levels.
A systematic search was performed in PubMed. Studies were included when an association between blood glucose levels and VOCs in exhaled air was investigated, using a technique that allows for separation, quantification and identification of individual VOCs. Only studies on humans were included.
Nine studies were included out of 1041 identified in the search. Authors of seven studies observed a significant correlation between blood glucose levels and selected VOCs in exhaled air. Authors of two studies did not observe a strong correlation. Blood glucose levels were associated with the following VOCs: ketone bodies (e.g., acetone), VOCs produced by gut flora (e.g., ethanol, methanol, and propane), exogenous compounds (e.g., ethyl benzene, o–xylene, and m/p–xylene) and markers of oxidative stress (e.g., methyl nitrate, 2–pentyl nitrate, and CO).
There is a relation between blood glucose levels and VOC composition in exhaled air. These results warrant clinical validation of exhaled breath analysis to monitor blood glucose levels.
PMCID: PMC4068184  PMID: 24963286
Glucose; Monitoring; Volatile organic compound; Breath
9.  A Dynamic Bronchial Airway Gene Expression Signature of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung Function Impairment 
Rationale: Molecular phenotyping of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been impeded in part by the difficulty in obtaining lung tissue samples from individuals with impaired lung function.
Objectives: We sought to determine whether COPD-associated processes are reflected in gene expression profiles of bronchial airway epithelial cells obtained by bronchoscopy.
Methods: Gene expression profiling of bronchial brushings obtained from 238 current and former smokers with and without COPD was performed using Affymetrix Human Gene 1.0 ST Arrays.
Measurements and Main Results: We identified 98 genes whose expression levels were associated with COPD status, FEV1% predicted, and FEV1/FVC. In silico analysis identified activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) as a potential transcriptional regulator of genes with COPD-associated airway expression, and ATF4 overexpression in airway epithelial cells in vitro recapitulates COPD-associated gene expression changes. Genes with COPD-associated expression in the bronchial airway epithelium had similarly altered expression profiles in prior studies performed on small-airway epithelium and lung parenchyma, suggesting that transcriptomic alterations in the bronchial airway epithelium reflect molecular events found at more distal sites of disease activity. Many of the airway COPD-associated gene expression changes revert toward baseline after therapy with the inhaled corticosteroid fluticasone in independent cohorts.
Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate a molecular field of injury throughout the bronchial airway of active and former smokers with COPD that may be driven in part by ATF4 and is modifiable with therapy. Bronchial airway epithelium may ultimately serve as a relatively accessible tissue in which to measure biomarkers of disease activity for guiding clinical management of COPD.
PMCID: PMC3707363  PMID: 23471465
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; gene expression profiling; biologic markers
10.  Exhaled breath profiling for diagnosing acute respiratory distress syndrome 
The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a common, devastating complication of critical illness that is characterized by pulmonary injury and inflammation. The clinical diagnosis may be improved by means of objective biological markers. Electronic nose (eNose) technology can rapidly and non–invasively provide breath prints, which are profiles of volatile metabolites in the exhaled breath. We hypothesized that breath prints could facilitate accurate diagnosis of ARDS in intubated and ventilated intensive care unit (ICU) patients.
Prospective single-center cohort study with training and temporal external validation cohort. Breath of newly intubated and mechanically ventilated ICU-patients was analyzed using an electronic nose within 24 hours after admission. ARDS was diagnosed and classified by the Berlin clinical consensus definition. The eNose was trained to recognize ARDS in a training cohort and the diagnostic performance was evaluated in a temporal external validation cohort.
In the training cohort (40 patients with ARDS versus 66 controls) the diagnostic model for ARDS showed a moderate discrimination, with an area under the receiver–operator characteristic curve (AUC–ROC) of 0.72 (95%–confidence interval (CI): 0.63-0.82). In the external validation cohort (18 patients with ARDS versus 26 controls) the AUC–ROC was 0.71 [95%–CI: 0.54 – 0.87]. Restricting discrimination to patients with moderate or severe ARDS versus controls resulted in an AUC–ROC of 0.80 [95%–CI: 0.70 – 0.90]. The exhaled breath profile from patients with cardiopulmonary edema and pneumonia was different from that of patients with moderate/severe ARDS.
An electronic nose can rapidly and non–invasively discriminate between patients with and without ARDS with modest accuracy. Diagnostic accuracy increased when only moderate and severe ARDS patients were considered. This implicates that breath analysis may allow for rapid, bedside detection of ARDS, especially if our findings are reproduced using continuous exhaled breath profiling.
Trial registration
NTR2750, registered 11 February 2011.
PMCID: PMC4021554  PMID: 24767549
ARDS; Exhaled breath; Electronic nose; Volatile organic compound; Sensitivity and specificity
11.  How integration of global omics-data could help preparing for pandemics – a scent of influenza 
Pandemics caused by novel emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases could lead to high mortality and morbidity world-wide when left uncontrolled. In this perspective, we evaluate the possibility of integration of global omics-data in order to timely prepare for pandemics. Such an approach requires two major innovations. First, data that is obtained should be shared with the global community instantly. The strength of rapid integration of simple signals is exemplified by Google’sTM Flu Trend, which could predict the incidence of influenza-like illness based on online search engine queries. Second, omics technologies need to be fast and high-throughput. We postulate that analysis of the exhaled breath would be a simple, rapid and non-invasive alternative. Breath contains hundreds of volatile organic compounds that are altered by infection and inflammation. The molecular fingerprint of breath (breathprint) can be obtained using an electronic nose, which relies on sensor technology. These breathprints can be stored in an online database (a “breathcloud”) and coupled to clinical data. Comparison of the breathprint of a suspected subject to the breathcloud allows for a rapid decision on the presence or absence of a pathogen.
PMCID: PMC4000993  PMID: 24795745
pandemic; exhaled breath; systems biology; diagnosis; metabolomics; metabolite profiling
12.  Susceptibility to Chronic Mucus Hypersecretion, a Genome Wide Association Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e91621.
Chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH) is associated with an increased frequency of respiratory infections, excess lung function decline, and increased hospitalisation and mortality rates in the general population. It is associated with smoking, but it is unknown why only a minority of smokers develops CMH. A plausible explanation for this phenomenon is a predisposing genetic constitution. Therefore, we performed a genome wide association (GWA) study of CMH in Caucasian populations.
GWA analysis was performed in the NELSON-study using the Illumina 610 array, followed by replication and meta-analysis in 11 additional cohorts. In total 2,704 subjects with, and 7,624 subjects without CMH were included, all current or former heavy smokers (≥20 pack-years). Additional studies were performed to test the functional relevance of the most significant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP).
A strong association with CMH, consistent across all cohorts, was observed with rs6577641 (p = 4.25×10−6, OR = 1.17), located in intron 9 of the special AT-rich sequence-binding protein 1 locus (SATB1) on chromosome 3. The risk allele (G) was associated with higher mRNA expression of SATB1 (4.3×10−9) in lung tissue. Presence of CMH was associated with increased SATB1 mRNA expression in bronchial biopsies from COPD patients. SATB1 expression was induced during differentiation of primary human bronchial epithelial cells in culture.
Our findings, that SNP rs6577641 is associated with CMH in multiple cohorts and is a cis-eQTL for SATB1, together with our additional observation that SATB1 expression increases during epithelial differentiation provide suggestive evidence that SATB1 is a gene that affects CMH.
PMCID: PMC3979657  PMID: 24714607
13.  Report of the 14th Genomic Standards Consortium Meeting, Oxford, UK, September 17-21, 2012. 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2014;9(3):1236-1250.
This report summarizes the proceedings of the 14th workshop of the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) held at the University of Oxford in September 2012. The primary goal of the workshop was to work towards the launch of the Genomic Observatories (GOs) Network under the GSC. For the first time, it brought together potential GOs sites, GSC members, and a range of interested partner organizations. It thus represented the first meeting of the GOs Network (GOs1). Key outcomes include the formation of a core group of “champions” ready to take the GOs Network forward, as well as the formation of working groups. The workshop also served as the first meeting of a wide range of participants in the Ocean Sampling Day (OSD) initiative, a first GOs action. Three projects with complementary interests – COST Action ES1103, MG4U and Micro B3 – organized joint sessions at the workshop. A two-day GSC Hackathon followed the main three days of meetings.
PMCID: PMC4148987
14.  Genomic Standards Consortium Projects 
Standards in Genomic Sciences  2014;9(3):599-601.
The Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) is an open-membership community that was founded in 2005 to work towards the development, implementation and harmonization of standards in the field of genomics. Starting with the defined task of establishing a minimal set of descriptions the GSC has evolved into an active standards-setting body that currently has 18 ongoing projects, with additional projects regularly proposed from within and outside the GSC. Here we describe our recently enacted policy for proposing new activities that are intended to be taken on by the GSC, along with the template for proposing such new activities.
PMCID: PMC4148985  PMID: 25197446
15.  Evaluation of coagulation activation after Rhinovirus infection in patients with asthma and healthy control subjects: an observational study 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):14.
Asthma exacerbations are frequently triggered by rhinovirus infections. Both asthma and respiratory tract infection can activate haemostasis. Therefore we hypothesized that experimental rhinovirus-16 infection and asthmatic airway inflammation act in synergy on the haemostatic balance.
28 patients (14 patients with mild allergic asthma and 14 healthy non-allergic controls) were infected with low-dose rhinovirus type 16. Venous plasma and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BAL fluid) were obtained before and 6 days after infection to evaluate markers of coagulation activation, thrombin-antithrombin complexes, von Willebrand factor, plasmin-antiplasmin complexes, plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1, endogenous thrombin potential and tissue factor-exposing microparticles by fibrin generation test, in plasma and/or BAL fluid. Data were analysed by nonparametric tests (Wilcoxon, Mann Whitney and Spearman correlation).
13 patients with mild asthma (6 females, 19-29 y) and 11 healthy controls (10 females, 19-31 y) had a documented Rhinovirus-16 infection. Rhinovirus-16 challenge resulted in a shortening of the fibrin generation test in BAL fluid of asthma patients (t = -1: 706 s vs. t = 6: 498 s; p = 0.02), but not of controls (t = -1: 693 s vs. t = 6: 636 s; p = 0.65). The fold change in tissue factor-exposing microparticles in BAL fluid inversely correlated with the fold changes in eosinophil cationic protein and myeloperoxidase in BAL fluid after virus infection (r = -0.517 and -0.528 resp., both p = 0.01).
Rhinovirus-16 challenge led to increased plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1 levels in plasma in patients with asthma (26.0 ng/mL vs. 11.5 ng/mL in healthy controls, p = 0.04). Rhinovirus-16 load in BAL showed a linear correlation with the fold change in endogenous thrombin potential, plasmin-antiplasmin complexes and plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1.
Experimental rhinovirus infection induces procoagulant changes in the airways of patients with asthma through increased activity of tissue factor-exposing microparticles. These microparticle-associated procoagulant changes are associated with both neutrophilic and eosinophilic inflammation. Systemic activation of haemostasis increases with Rhinoviral load.
Trial registration
This trial was registered at the Dutch trial registry ( NTR1677.
PMCID: PMC3922343  PMID: 24502801
Rhinovirus; Coagulation; Fibrinolysis; Asthma; Microparticles; Inflammation
16.  Steroid Resistance in COPD? Overlap and Differential Anti-Inflammatory Effects in Smokers and Ex-Smokers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87443.
Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) reduce exacerbation rates and improve health status but can increase the risk of pneumonia in COPD. The GLUCOLD study, investigating patients with mild-to-moderate COPD, has shown that long-term (2.5-year) ICS therapy induces anti-inflammatory effects. The literature suggests that cigarette smoking causes ICS insensitivity. The aim of this study is to compare anti-inflammatory effects of ICS in persistent smokers and persistent ex-smokers in a post-hoc analysis of the GLUCOLD study.
Persistent smokers (n = 41) and persistent ex-smokers (n = 31) from the GLUCOLD cohort were investigated. Effects of ICS treatment compared with placebo were estimated by analysing changes in lung function, hyperresponsiveness, and inflammatory cells in sputum and bronchial biopsies during short-term (0–6 months) and long-term (6–30 months) treatment using multiple regression analyses.
Bronchial mast cells were reduced by short-term and long-term ICS treatment in both smokers and ex-smokers. In contrast, CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ cells were reduced by short-term ICS treatment in smokers only. In addition, sputum neutrophils and lymphocytes, and bronchial CD8+ cells were reduced after long-term treatment in ex-smokers only. No significant interactions existed between smoking and ICS treatment.
Even in the presence of smoking, long-term ICS treatment may lead to anti-inflammatory effects in the lung. Some anti-inflammatory ICS effects are comparable in smokers and ex-smokers with COPD, other effects are cell-specific. The clinical relevance of these findings, however, are uncertain.
PMCID: PMC3914834  PMID: 24505290
17.  dsRNA-induced changes in gene expression profiles of primary nasal and bronchial epithelial cells from patients with asthma, rhinitis and controls 
Respiratory Research  2014;15(1):9.
Rhinovirus infections are the most common cause of asthma exacerbations. The complex responses by airway epithelium to rhinovirus can be captured by gene expression profiling. We hypothesized that: a) upper and lower airway epithelium exhibit differential responses to double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), and b) that this is modulated by the presence of asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Identification of dsRNA-induced gene expression profiles of primary nasal and bronchial epithelial cells from the same individuals and examining the impact of allergic rhinitis with and without concomitant allergic asthma on expression profiles.
This study had a cross-sectional design including 18 subjects: 6 patients with allergic asthma with concomitant rhinitis, 6 patients with allergic rhinitis, and 6 healthy controls. Comparing 6 subjects per group, the estimated false discovery rate was approximately 5%. RNA was extracted from isolated and cultured primary epithelial cells from nasal biopsies and bronchial brushings stimulated with dsRNA (poly(I:C)), and analyzed by microarray (Affymetrix U133+ PM Genechip Array). Data were analysed using R and the Bioconductor Limma package. Overrepresentation of gene ontology groups were captured by GeneSpring GX12.
In total, 17 subjects completed the study successfully (6 allergic asthma with rhinitis, 5 allergic rhinitis, 6 healthy controls). dsRNA-stimulated upper and lower airway epithelium from asthma patients demonstrated significantly fewer induced genes, exhibiting reduced down-regulation of mitochondrial genes. The majority of genes related to viral responses appeared to be similarly induced in upper and lower airways in all groups. However, the induction of several interferon-related genes (IRF3, IFNAR1, IFNB1, IFNGR1, IL28B) was impaired in patients with asthma.
dsRNA differentially changes transcriptional profiles of primary nasal and bronchial epithelial cells from patients with allergic rhinitis with or without asthma and controls. Our data suggest that respiratory viruses affect mitochondrial genes, and we identified disease-specific genes that provide potential targets for drug development.
PMCID: PMC3916078  PMID: 24475887
Asthma; Rhinitis; Epithelium; Gene expression; dsRNA
18.  The Impact of Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma on Human Nasal and Bronchial Epithelial Gene Expression 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80257.
The link between upper and lower airways in patients with both asthma and allergic rhinitis is still poorly understood. As the biological complexity of these disorders can be captured by gene expression profiling we hypothesized that the clinical expression of rhinitis and/or asthma is related to differential gene expression between upper and lower airways epithelium.
Defining gene expression profiles of primary nasal and bronchial epithelial cells from the same individuals and examining the impact of allergic rhinitis with and without concomitant allergic asthma on expression profiles.
This cross-sectional study included 18 subjects (6 allergic asthma and allergic rhinitis; 6 allergic rhinitis; 6 healthy controls). The estimated false discovery rate comparing 6 subjects per group was approximately 5%. RNA was extracted from isolated and cultured epithelial cells from bronchial brushings and nasal biopsies, and analyzed by microarray (Affymetrix U133+ PM Genechip Array). Data were analysed using R and Bioconductor Limma package. For gene ontology GeneSpring GX12 was used.
The study was successfully completed by 17 subjects (6 allergic asthma and allergic rhinitis; 5 allergic rhinitis; 6 healthy controls). Using correction for multiple testing, 1988 genes were differentially expressed between healthy lower and upper airway epithelium, whereas in allergic rhinitis with or without asthma this was only 40 and 301 genes, respectively. Genes influenced by allergic rhinitis with or without asthma were linked to lung development, remodeling, regulation of peptidases and normal epithelial barrier functions.
Differences in epithelial gene expression between the upper and lower airway epithelium, as observed in healthy subjects, largely disappear in patients with allergic rhinitis with or without asthma, whilst new differences emerge. The present data identify several pathways and genes that might be potential targets for future drug development.
PMCID: PMC3839950  PMID: 24282527
19.  Electronic Nose Technology for Detection of Invasive Pulmonary Aspergillosis in Prolonged Chemotherapy-Induced Neutropenia: a Proof-of-Principle Study 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2013;51(5):1490-1495.
Although the high mortality rate of pulmonary invasive aspergillosis (IA) in patients with prolonged chemotherapy-induced neutropenia (PCIN) can be reduced by timely diagnosis, a diagnostic test that reliably detects IA at an early stage is lacking. We hypothesized that an electronic nose (eNose) could fulfill this need. An eNose can discriminate various lung diseases through the analysis of exhaled volatile organic compounds (VOCs). An eNose is cheap and noninvasive and yields results within minutes. In a single-center prospective cohort study, we included patients who were treated with chemotherapy expected to result in PCIN. Based on standardized indications, a full diagnostic workup was performed to confirm invasive aspergillosis or to rule it out. Patients with no aspergillosis were considered controls, and patients with probable or proven aspergillosis were considered index cases. Exhaled breath was examined with a Cyranose 320 (Smith Detections, Pasadena, CA). The resulting data were analyzed using principal component reduction. The primary endpoint was cross-validated diagnostic accuracy, defined as the percentage of patients correctly classified using the leave-one-out method. Accuracy was validated by 100,000 random classifications. We included 46 subjects who underwent 16 diagnostic workups, resulting in 6 cases and 5 controls. The cross-validated accuracy of the eNose in diagnosing IA was 90.9% (P = 0.022; sensitivity, 100%; specificity, 83.3%). Receiver operating characteristic analysis showed an area under the curve of 0.93. These preliminary data indicate that PCIN patients with IA have a distinct exhaled VOC profile that can be detected with eNose technology. The diagnostic accuracy of the eNose for invasive aspergillosis warrants validation.
PMCID: PMC3647955  PMID: 23467602
20.  EBI metagenomics—a new resource for the analysis and archiving of metagenomic data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D600-D606.
Metagenomics is a relatively recently established but rapidly expanding field that uses high-throughput next-generation sequencing technologies to characterize the microbial communities inhabiting different ecosystems (including oceans, lakes, soil, tundra, plants and body sites). Metagenomics brings with it a number of challenges, including the management, analysis, storage and sharing of data. In response to these challenges, we have developed a new metagenomics resource ( that allows users to easily submit raw nucleotide reads for functional and taxonomic analysis by a state-of-the-art pipeline, and have them automatically stored (together with descriptive, standards-compliant metadata) in the European Nucleotide Archive.
PMCID: PMC3965009  PMID: 24165880
21.  Toll-like receptors 2, 3 and 4 and thymic stromal lymphopoietin expression in fatal asthma 
Airway inflammation in asthma involves innate immune responses. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) are thought to be involved in airway inflammation, but their expression in asthmatics’ both large and small airways has not been investigated.
To analyze the expression of TLR2, TLR3, TLR4 and TSLP in large and small airways of asthmatics and compare their expression in smoking and nonsmoking asthmatics; to investigate whether TLR expression is associated with eosinophilic or neutrophilic airway inflammation and with Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydophila pneumoniae infection.
Using immunohistochemistry and image analysis, we investigated TLR2, TLR3, TLR4 and TSLP expression in large and small airways of 24 victims of fatal asthma, FA, (13 nonsmokers, 11 smokers) and 9 deceased control subjects (DCtrl). TLRs were also measured in 18 mild asthmatics (MA) and 12 healthy controls (HCtrl). Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Chlamydophila pneumoniae in autopsy lung tissue was analyzed using real-time polymerase chain reaction. Airway eosinophils and neutrophils were measured in all subjects.
Fatal asthma patients had higher TLR2 in the epithelial and outer layers of large and small airways compared with DCtrls. Smoking asthmatics had lower TLR2 levels in the inner and outer layers of the small airways than nonsmoking asthmatics. TSLP was increased in the epithelial and outer layers of the large airways of FA. FA patients had greater TLR3 expression in the outer layer of large airways and greater TLR4 expression in the outer layer of small airways. Eosinophilic airway inflammation was associated with TLR expression in the epithelium of FA. No bacterial DNA was detected in FA or DCtrls. MA and HCtrls had only a small difference in TLR3 expression.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance
Increased expression of TLR 2, 3 and 4 and TSLP in fatal asthma may contribute to the acute inflammation surrounding asthma deaths.
PMCID: PMC3459227  PMID: 22994343
lung; innate immunity; immunohistochemistry
22.  Inflammatory phenotypes underlying uncontrolled childhood asthma despite inhaled corticosteroid treatment: rationale and design of the PACMAN2 study 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:94.
The diagnosis of childhood asthma covers a broad spectrum of pathological mechanisms that can lead to similarly presenting clinical symptoms, but may nonetheless require different treatment approaches. Distinct underlying inflammatory patterns are thought to influence responsiveness to standard asthma medication.
The purpose of the PACMAN2 study is to identify inflammatory phenotypes that can discriminate uncontrolled childhood asthma from controlled childhood asthma by measures in peripheral blood and exhaled air. PACMAN2 is a nested, case–control follow-up study to the ongoing pharmacy-based “Pharmacogenetics of Asthma medication in Children: Medication with Anti-inflammatory effects” (PACMAN) study. The original PACMAN cohort consists of children aged 4–12 years with reported use of asthma medication. The PACMAN2 study will be conducted within the larger PACMAN cohort, and will focus on detailed phenotyping of a subset of the PACMAN children. The selected participants will be invited to a follow-up visit in a clinical setting at least six months after their baseline visit based on their adherence to usage of inhaled corticosteroids, their asthma symptoms in the past year, and their age (≥ 8 years). During the follow-up visit, current and long-term asthma symptoms, medication use, environmental factors, medication adherence and levels of exhaled nitric oxide will be reassessed. The following measures will also be examined: pulmonary function, exhaled volatile organic compounds, as well as inflammatory markers in peripheral blood and blood plasma. Comparative analysis and cluster-analyses will be used to identify markers that differentiate children with uncontrolled asthma despite their use of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) (cases) from children whose asthma is controlled by the use of ICS (controls).
Asthmatic children with distinct inflammatory phenotypes may respond differently to anti-inflammatory therapy. Therefore, by identifying inflammatory phenotypes in children with the PACMAN2 study, we may greatly impact future personalised treatment strategies, uncover new leads for therapeutic targets and improve the design of future clinical studies in the assessment of the efficacy of novel therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3691827  PMID: 23768206
Asthma; Child; Phenotypes; Inflammation; Proteomics; Volatile organic compounds; Corticosteroids
23.  Volatile Metabolites of Pathogens: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(5):e1003311.
Ideally, invading bacteria are detected as early as possible in critically ill patients: the strain of morbific pathogens is identified rapidly, and antimicrobial sensitivity is known well before the start of new antimicrobial therapy. Bacteria have a distinct metabolism, part of which results in the production of bacteria-specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which might be used for diagnostic purposes. Volatile metabolites can be investigated directly in exhaled air, allowing for noninvasive monitoring. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of VOCs produced by the six most abundant and pathogenic bacteria in sepsis, including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Enterococcus faecalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Escherichia coli. Such VOCs could be used as biological markers in the diagnostic approach of critically ill patients. A systematic review of existing literature revealed 31 articles. All six bacteria of interest produce isopentanol, formaldehyde, methyl mercaptan, and trimethylamine. Since humans do not produce these VOCs, they could serve as biological markers for presence of these pathogens. The following volatile biomarkers were found for identification of specific strains: isovaleric acid and 2-methyl-butanal for Staphylococcus aureus; 1-undecene, 2,4-dimethyl-1-heptane, 2-butanone, 4-methyl-quinazoline, hydrogen cyanide, and methyl thiocyanide for Pseudomonas aeruginosa; and methanol, pentanol, ethyl acetate, and indole for Escherichia coli. Notably, several factors that may effect VOC production were not controlled for, including used culture media, bacterial growth phase, and genomic variation within bacterial strains. In conclusion, VOCs produced by bacteria may serve as biological markers for their presence. Goal-targeted studies should be performed to identify potential sets of volatile biological markers and evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of these markers in critically ill patients.
PMCID: PMC3649982  PMID: 23675295
24.  Inhaled Steroids Modulate Extracellular Matrix Composition in Bronchial Biopsies of COPD Patients: A Randomized, Controlled Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63430.
Smoking and inflammation contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which involves changes in extracellular matrix. This is thought to contribute to airway remodeling and airflow obstruction. We have previously observed that long-term treatment with inhaled corticosteroids can not only reduce bronchial inflammation, but can also attenuate lung function decline in moderate-severe COPD. We hypothesized that inhaled corticosteroids and current smoking modulate bronchial extracellular matrix components in COPD.
To compare major extracellular matrix components (elastic fibers; proteoglycans [versican, decorin]; collagens type I and III) in bronchial biopsies 1) after 30-months inhaled steroids treatment or placebo; and 2) between current and ex-smokers with COPD.
We included 64 moderate-severe, steroid-naive COPD patients (24/40 (ex)-smokers, 62±7 years, 46 (31–54) packyears, post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) 62±9% predicted) at baseline in this randomized, controlled trial. 19 and 13 patients received 30-months treatment with fluticasone or placebo, respectively. Bronchial biopsies collected at baseline and after 30 months were studied using (immuno)histochemistry to evaluate extracellular matrix content. Percentage and density of stained area were calculated by digital image analysis.
30-Months inhaled steroids increased the percentage stained area of versican (9.6% [CI 0.9 to 18.3%]; p = 0.03) and collagen III (20.6% [CI 3.8 to 37.4%]; p = 0.02) compared to placebo. Increased collagen I staining density correlated with increased post-bronchodilator FEV1 after inhaled steroids treatment (Rs = 0.45, p = 0.04). There were no differences between smokers and ex-smokers with COPD in percentages and densities for all extracellular matrix proteins.
These data show that long-term inhaled corticosteroids treatment partially changes the composition of extracellular matrix in moderate-severe COPD. This is associated with increased lung function, suggesting that long-term inhaled steroids modulate airway remodeling thereby potentially preventing airway collapse in COPD. Smoking status is not associated with bronchial extracellular matrix proteins.
Trial Registration NCT00158847
PMCID: PMC3646783  PMID: 23667615
25.  Urinary Eosinophil Protein X in Childhood Asthma: Relation with Changes in Disease Control and Eosinophilic Airway Inflammation 
Mediators of Inflammation  2013;2013:532619.
The aim of this study was to assess cross-sectional and longitudinal correlations between uEPX and other markers of asthma control and eosinophilic airway inflammation. Methods. We measured uEPX at baseline, after 1 year and after 2 years in 205 atopic asthmatic children using inhaled fluticasone. At the same time points, we assessed symptom scores (2 weeks diary card), lung function (forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1)), airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR), and percentage eosinophils in induced sputum (% eos). Results. We found negative correlations between uEPX and FEV1 at baseline (r = −0.18, P = 0.01), after 1 year (r = −0.25, P < 0.01) and after 2 years (r = −0.21, P = 0.02). Within-patient changes of uEPX showed a negative association with FEV1 changes (at 1 year: r = −0.24, P = 0.01; at 2 years: r = −0.21, P = 0.03). Within-patient changes from baseline of uEPX correlated with changes in % eos. No relations were found between uEPX and symptoms. Conclusion. In this population of children with atopic asthma, uEPX correlated with FEV1 and % eos, and within-subjects changes in uEPX correlated with changes in FEV1 and % eos. As the associations were weak and the scatter of uEPX wide, it seems unlikely that uEPX will be useful as a biomarker for monitoring asthma control in the individual child.
PMCID: PMC3557635  PMID: 23401643

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