Lung infection identified using ‘breath-print’

Identifying the

BBC Health News

January 10, 2013

Identifying the "smell" of different types of lung bacteria could lead to a simple breath test to diagnose infections, a study on mice, in the Journal of Breath Research, suggests.

Breath analysis could reduce lung infection diagnosis times from weeks to minutes, the Vermont researchers said...

...They infected mice with two bacteria that are both common in lung infections - Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus - and sampled their breath after 24 hours.

Jane Hill
Prof. Jane Hill

The compounds in their breath were analysed using a technique called secondary electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (SESI-MS), which is capable of detecting extremely small elements of the chemicals present in their breath.

The researchers said they found a "statistically significant" difference between the breath profiles of the mice infected with the bacteria and the mice that were uninfected.

They also said they were able to differentiate between two species of bacteria and two different strains of the same P. aeruginosa bacterium.

But Jane Hill, co-author of the study, from the University of Vermont College of Medicine, said there were still some challenges to overcome with "breath-prints".

"We are now collaborating with colleagues to sample patients in order to demonstrate the strengths, as well as limitations, of breath analysis more comprehensively," she said.

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