Diagnosing gastrointestinal illnesses using fecal headspace volatile organic compounds

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from stool are the components of the smell of stool representing the end products of microbial activity and metabolism that can be used to diagnose disease. Despite the abundance of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane that have already been identified in human flatus, the small portion of trace gases making up the VOCs emitted from stool include organic acids, alcohols, esters, heterocyclic compounds, aldehydes, ketones, and alkanes, among others. These are the gases that vary among individuals in sickness and in health, in dietary changes, and in gut microbial activity. Electronic nose devices are analytical and pattern recognition platforms that can utilize mass spectrometry or electrochemical sensors to detect these VOCs in gas samples. When paired with machine-learning and pattern recognition algorithms, this can identify patterns of VOCs, and thus patterns of smell, that can be used to identify disease states. In this review, we provide a clinical background of VOC identification, electronic nose development, and review gastroenterology applications toward diagnosing disease by the volatile headspace analysis of stool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1639-1649
Number of pages11
JournalWorld journal of gastroenterology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 28 2016


  • Electronic nose
  • Feces
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Odors
  • Volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'Diagnosing gastrointestinal illnesses using fecal headspace volatile organic compounds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this