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Breath Analysis: Biomarkers

Screening for biomarkers with PTR-MS

IONICON PTR-TOF instruments are particularly well suited for breath biomarker research. They record the complete spectrum in real-time, containing all information. This offers great potential for data mining and allows to re-analyze existing data for new markers.

The classical application of breath analysis is the search for biomarkers. In such studies, breath spectra of healthy volunteers are compared to subjects/patients with a certain condition. IONICON PTR-TOF instruments are particularly well suited for biomarker research. Since the complete spectrum is recorded, containing all information, it offers great potential for data mining and allows to re-analyze existing data for new markers. The ability to analyze breath (and the ambient air) in real-time offers instant results and a high throughput with minimal workload.

Breath-Markers for Smoking

The most prominent biomarkers typically found in breath are those for the smoking status of the test subject. These markers should always be identified, since they can easily act as confounding factors of more interesting correlations 

The figure to the right shows a box-plot for the most prominent smoking marker acetonitrile. The data represents concentrations from over 200 subjects using real-time analysis with PTR-MS. It is in perfect agreement with previously published results and can be used to demonstrate the accuracy of the employed method. The Area Under the Receiver-Operator-Characteristic curve (AUROC) is 99% and represents the best value published so far.

Disease screening for COVID-19

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. Several of our customers employ PTR-TOF to develop fast screening tests for COVID-19 e.g. Breathonix in Singapore or the monitoring of the treatment of CORONA disease e.g. Hôpital Foch and University Paris-Saclay, France. Continue reading on COVID-19 related research efforts.

Lung Cancer

The “holy grail” in breath screening tests is the detection of lung cancer. In a multi-centric clinical study Herbig et al.* could identify biomarkers for lung cancer using PTR-MS. By combining only two markers, they reach a cross-validated AUROC value of > 83% for the detection of bronchial adeno-carcinoma.

*... Ref: Herbig J, 5th Int. Conf. on PTR-MS, IUP Conf. Series, pp. 31-33 (2011)

Kidney function

Kohl et al. performed a clinical study where they tested patients before and after renal transplantation. In this study they found a breath compound that correlates with blood creatinine concentration, a marker for kidney function.