Breath volatile organic compounds for the gut-fatty liver axis: Promise, peril, and path forward

Steven Francis Solga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The worldwide interest in the gut microbiome and its impact on the upstream liver highlight a critical upside to breath research: it can uniquely measure otherwise unmeasurable biology. Bacteria make gases [volatile organic compounds (VOCs)] that are directly relevant to pathophysiology of the fatty liver and associated conditions, including obesity. Measurement of these VOCs and their metabolites in the exhaled breath, therefore, present an opportunity to safely and easily evaluate, on both a personal and a population level, some of our most pressing public health threats. This is an opportunity that must be pursued. To date, however, breath analysis remains a slowly evolving field which only occasionally impacts clinical research or patient care. One major obstacle to progress is that breath analysis is inherently and emphatically mutli-disciplinary: it connects engineering, chemistry, breath mechanics, biology and medicine. Unbalanced or incomplete teams may produce inconsistent and often unsatisfactory results. A second impediment is the lack of a well-known stepwise structure for the development of non-invasive diagnostics. As a result, the breath research landscape is replete with orphaned single-center pilot studies. Often, important hypotheses and key observations have not been pursued to maturation. This paper reviews the rationale and requirements for breath VOC research applied to the gut-fatty liver axis and offers some suggestions for future development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9017-9025
Number of pages9
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number27
StatePublished - Jul 21 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Breath
  • Breath analysis
  • Fatty liver
  • Gut flora
  • Volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Medicine(all)


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