Some of Our Projects

Breath test for lung infection in patients with CF »

Breath test for Tuberculosis »

Determination of antibiotic resistance status for bacterial pneumonia »

Breath test for lung infection in patients with CF

Our goal is to rapidly diagnose the infection status of CF patients undergoing pulmonary exacerbation.

Breath test for lung infection in patients with CF

The majority of mortality and morbidity for cystic fibrosis (CF) is due to lung failure associated with chronic bacterial infections and inflammation of the pulmonary airways. Current microbiology diagnostic techniques can take more than 48 hours, during which time the clinician must take a best guess as to the treatment strategy, often relying on sputum culture results from months prior. The central hypothesis underpinning this project is that volatile molecules from patient biofluids can be used to identify the bacterial pathogens infecting the lungs of CF patients in less than one hour. Our preliminary work with biofluids samples (lung lavage, sputum, patient breath) from CF patients across the US shows that we can discriminate between Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia infections using volatile molecules. We were also able to differentiate between mucoid and non-mucoid P. aeruginosa and methicillin-sensitive S. aureus from methicillin-resistant S. aureus.

Breath test for Tuberculosis

Our goal is to develop a single breath test for active tuberculosis.

Breath test for tuberculosis

One third of humans are host to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, an organism responsible for over 1.2 million deaths each year. Identification of M. tuberculosis from patient sputum is the gold standard diagnosis; a sample not produced by up to one third of patients, children in particular. We hypothesize that exhaled breath volatile molecules can be used to diagnose pulmonary tuberculosis. Our work in well-controlled animal models as well as in human patients in southern Africa point toward a suite of breath volatile molecules can be used to distinguish active infection from other scenarios. A rapid breath test to detect and monitor M. tuberculosis infection would enable effective and early treatment as well as a methodology to track treatment efficacy.

Determination of antibiotic resistance status for bacterial pneumonia

Our goal is to rapidly assess the antibiotic resistance profile of lung infections.

Determination of antibiotic resistance status for bacterial pneumonia

Antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens are a global threat to public health, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MDR TB), and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). Current diagnostics are time-consuming, even while antibiotic therapy is often needed immediately. We hypothesize that the volatile metabolites produced by bacterial pathogens can be used to predict their antibiotic susceptibility patterns. The development of antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens has been shown to alter both gene expression and overall organism metabolism, and we expect that these changes will be reflected in the volatile molecules produced. We anticipate that our findings will inform the development of a rapid breath test for patterns of antibiotic resistance in the setting of bacterial pneumonia.