Electronic Nose Technology Fails to Sniff Out Acute Mountain Sickness

High Alt Med Biol. 2018 Sep;19(3):232-236. doi: 10.1089/ham.2017.0145. Epub 2018 Mar 20.


Berendsen, Remco R., Marieke E. van Vessem, Marcel Bruins, Luc J.S.M. Teppema, Leon P.H.J. Aarts, and Bengt Kayser. Electronic nose technology fails to sniff out acute mountain sickness. High Alt Med Biol. 19:232-236, 2018.

Aim: The aim of the study was to evaluate whether an electronic nose can discriminate between individuals with and without acute mountain sickness (AMS) following rapid ascent to 4554 m.

Results: We recruited recreational climbers (19 women, 82 men; age 35 ± 10 years, mean ± standard deviation [SD]) upon arrival at 4554 m (Capanna Regina Margherita, Italy) for a proof of concept study. AMS was assessed with the Lake Louise self-report score (LLSRS) and the abbreviated Environmental Symptoms Questionnaire (ESQc); scores ≥3 and ≥0.7 were considered AMS, respectively. Exhaled air was analyzed with an electronic nose (Aeonose; The eNose Company, Netherlands). The collected data were analyzed using an artificial neural network. AMS prevalence was 44% with the LLSRS (mean score of those sick 4.4 ± 1.4 [SD]) and 20% with the ESQc (1.2 ± 0.5). The electronic nose could not discriminate between AMS and no AMS (LLSRS p = 0.291; ESQc p = 0.805).

Conclusion: The electronic nose technology utilized in this study could not discriminate between climbers with and without symptoms of AMS in the setting of an acute exposure to an altitude of 4554 m. At this stage, we cannot fully exclude that this technology per se is not able to discriminate for AMS. The quest for objective means to diagnose AMS thus continues.

Keywords: AMS; ESQc; LLSRS; electronic nose; exhaled breath.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Altitude Sickness / diagnosis*
  • Breath Tests / instrumentation
  • Electronic Nose*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Self Report
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis


  • Volatile Organic Compounds