The liver is at the heart of many key metabolic pathways in the body and, as such, the products of metabolism offer an ideal target for monitoring liver function and to detect the early signs of disease, said Owlstone Medical.
The health site added: “Various studies have used blood, faecal or urine samples to detect late-stage liver conditions, but perhaps the most promising approach involves detecting volatile metabolites in breath.
“The earliest evidence that breath can be linked to liver disease comes from Ancient Greece and Hippocrates’ description of fetor hepaticus – distinctive bad smelling breath resulting from the liver failing to correctly metabolise sulphur containing compounds.
“We now know that the smell itself is primarily linked to an increase of dimethyl sulphide in exhaled air.
“While fetor hepaticus demonstrates that metabolic changes can be reflected in breath, alone it is of limited use as it indicates late-stage liver disease.”