[Taucher1997] "Detection of isoprene in expired air from human subjects using proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry.",
Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom.
, vol. 11, pp. 1230-4, 1997.
A new analytical method using proton-transfer-reaction mass spectrometry (PTRMS) is described for the determination of trace constituents in human breath. PTRMS is sufficiently sensitive and specific that it does not require preconcentration or separation. At its present stage of development it is capable of detecting trace constituents present in air at the part-per-billion level. These capabilities are illustrated for isoprene, one of the most abundant endogenous hydrocarbons. Our results confirm recent observations of a diurnal level variation associated with sleep or wakefulness; a new finding is that young children have much lower levels of isoprene in breath than adults. To address the metabolic origin of human isoprene, we used PTRMS to analyze expired air for allylic C5 alcohols that have been proposed to be non-enzymatic precursors of isoprene. The lack of correlation between peak breath isoprene and these alcohols suggests that the hydrocarbon is formed by some other mechanism.