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COVID-19 Detection in Breath

IONICON PTR-TOF instruments deployed for COVID-19 research in breath

SARS-CoV-2 currently has the world in its grasp. A quick, non-invasive test to detect an infection would be a tremendous step forward. There is a high probability that this disease can be detected in the exhaled breath, moreover monitoring the impact of treatment or medication in exhaled breath is highly relevant. IONICON PTR-TOF systems have become the de-facto standard for real-time breath analysis. Learn what they offer for COVID-19 detection in breath.

Advantages of breath gas analysis with IONICON PTR-TOFMS and dedicated BET inlet system

Breath gas analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) has become a growing field of research in recent years. In the blood gas exchange in the lungs alveoli Carbon dioxide is released into and Oxygen is taken up from the inhaled air. This exchange also applies to volatile metabolites that are produced in the body or in the lungs directly. By this mechanism researchers are trying to detect volatile biomarkers in exhaled breath that are indicative for a disease or for the response to pharmacological treatments. Sampling exhaled breath is non-invasive and simple. But the analysis is the challenge: Several hundred volatile compounds have so far been identified in exhaled breath and their range of concentrations, typically in the parts-per-billion range, are a challenge to most modern analyzers.

IONICON PTR-TOF systems are particularly well suited for breath gas analysis: Their detection limits and linearity range match the concentrations typically found in breath. Their high mass resolving power allows to separate isobaric compounds. Moreover, in addition to offline analysis, where breath is collected in a container and then analyzed, the high sensitivity and fast response time of these systems allows to analyze breath online and in real-time. This provides immediate results and avoids complications often arising from sample collection and storage. Using an IONICON PTR-TOF 6000 X2, several hundred compounds can be measured simultaneously from a single exhalation with limits of detection in the ppt range (1 ppt = 0.001 ppb).

A specialized breath sampling inlet (BET) for PTR-TOF has been tested in several clinical trials. The BET employs clinically certified, disposable, non-rebreathing mouthpieces to minimize the risk of contagion between patients – a prerequisite to study infectious diseases. Moreover, using an extended heated inlet line, gas from a respirator can be sampled to monitor breath VOCs of ventilated patients.

Applied COVID-19 breath VOC pattern research and medication monitoring with IONICON PTR-TOFMS

Looking at the pathophysiology of COVID-19, there are several indicators that a SARS-CoV-2 infection is detectable in the breath VOC pattern. The disease has been reported to cause a multitude of symptoms and can affect several organs. That supports the assumption that the metabolism is affected in more than one way and that the volatile metabolite distribution is altered.

The rapid detection of COVID-19-specific breath VOCs would be a great step forward for diagnostic purposes and a spectrum of VOCs could be used for monitoring disease progression or response to conventional or investigational drugs. Since therapies for COVID-19 are experimental at this stage, directly monitoring the effect of a therapeutic drug speeds up the development of an efficient treatment for COVID-19.

Thanks to breath researchers like Dr. Stanislas Grassin Delyle from the Hôpital Foch in Suresnes, France and University Paris-Saclay (UVSQ), our PTR-TOF solutions are currently deployed directly at the forefront of international scientific efforts:

“We use an IONICON PTR-TOF system to monitor breath VOCs in ventilated patients with COVID-19. The direct and fast measurement of so many breath VOCs at the same time allows us to study the progression of the disease and the response to therapeutic strategies.”

reports Dr. Grassin Delyle. We wish him and all other customers who try gaining insights in SARS-CoV-2 all the best!

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IONICON Analyzers at the Forefront of International COVID-19 Breath Testing Research.

Picture: by Hanna Vega, SARS-CoV-2 Host Cells, CC BY-SA 4.0
Breath gas spectrum collected by IONICON PTR-TOF and extracted real-time concentrations of selected VOCs