Melbourne: Gut microbes produce gases that may contribute to gastrointestinal diseases and can be used as biomarkers for one's state of health, scientists say.
Researchers have also suggested two novel gas-sensing systems, one of which is an electronic gas sensor in the form of a pill you can swallow, to measure these potential biomarkers.
These systems may offer a reliable and economical way to understand the impact of intestinal gases on human health, paving the way for the development of new diagnostic techniques and therapies.
Different types of microbes found in the gut produce unique gases as a byproduct of their metabolism. For example, sulfate-reducing bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide, a pungent odour reminiscent of rotten eggs, while methanogenic archaea produce the odourless gas methane.
Because these intestinal gases have been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and colon cancer, accurately measuring intestinal gases could accelerate knowledge about the potential contribution of specific gut microbes to various gastrointestinal health states.
However, current methods such as breath analysis do not accurately reflect the composition of gases found in the gut, highlighting the need for more reliable approaches.
According to researchers in an article published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology, in vitro fermentation systems and swallowable gas capsules represent promising alternatives.
Fermentation methods involve obtaining fecal samples from humans and culturing them in an oxygen-free, humid environment resembling the gastrointestinal tract.
Gas samples are then collected from the fecal cultures and quantitatively analysed to separate out different types of gases.
A more direct and accurate approach involves the use of encapsulated gas sensors that can be swallowed and sample gases while inside the intestine.
These electronic gas sensor "pills" consist of a protective shell, a gas-permeable membrane window, a gas sensor, a microprocessor and wireless transmitter to process and transfer the data, and a miniature battery.
"Because both techniques are noninvasive, they have the potential to significantly impact relevant medical industries and public health sectors, facilitating the formulation of point-of-care methodologies for diagnostics and potentially new diet- or drug-based therapies for gastrointestinal diseases," said senior author Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at RMIT University in Australia.