To test the hypothesis that fecal volatile organic compounds (VOCs) analysis by electronic nose (eNose) allows for early detection of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). In 3 neonatal intensive care units, fecal samples of infants born at gestational age ≤ 30 weeks were collected daily, up to the 28th day of life. Included infants were allocated in 3 subgroups: NEC, sepsis, and matched controls. Three time windows were defined: (1) T-5,-4 (5 and 4 days before diagnosis); (2) T-3,-2 (3 and 2 days before diagnosis); and (3) T-1,0 (day before and day of diagnosis). Three subgroups were analyzed by eNose. Fecal VOC profiles of infants with NEC (n = 13) could significantly be discriminated from matched controls (n = 14) at T-3,-2 (area under the curve ± 95% CI, P value, sensitivity, specificity: 0.77 ± 0.21, P = .02, 83%, 75%); the accuracy increased at T-1,0 (0.99 ± 0.04, P ≤ .001, 89%, 89%). VOC profiles of infants with NEC were also significantly different from those with sepsis (n = 31) at T-3,-2 (0.80 ± 0.17, P = .004, 83%, 75%), but not at T-1,0 (0.64 ± 0.18, P = .216, 89%, 57%). In this proof of principle study, we observed that fecal VOC profiles of infants with NEC could be discriminated from controls, from 2-3 days predating onset of clinical symptoms. Our observations suggest that VOC-profiling by eNose has potential as a noninvasive tool for the early prediction of NE
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