Breath Analysis and VOCs for Infectious Disease Screening

In recent months, breath analysis has been receiving a high amount of attention in the healthcare
world because it provides a non-invasive clinical test with results being used for early disease

What is Breath Analysis?

Your breath can highlight a lot of information if you know what to look for. Besides giving away that
you may have had a coffee for breakfast, your breath contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
which can provide biomarkers of a disease. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
says: “Breath analysis enables rapid, non-invasive diagnostics, as well as long-term monitoring of
human health, through the identification and quantification of exhaled biomarkers.”

The study of breath analysis can often be referred to as Breathomics. Science Direct sums up the
relationship between VOCs and breath biomarkers neatly: “Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are
produced by virtually all metabolic processes of the body. As such, they have potential to serve as
noninvasive metabolic biomarkers. Since exhaled VOCs are either derived from the respiratory tract
itself or have passed the lungs from the circulation, they are candidate biomarkers in the diagnosis
and monitoring of pulmonary diseases in particular.”

Diseases Detected Through Breath Analysis

Breath tests can be used to detect a variety of diseases including diabetes, lung cancer, obesity and
some food intolerances including lactose and fructose.
Enter our project for BreathSpec which aims to develop a rapid, non-invasive way to diagnose and
differentiate between bacterial or viral infections through breath analysis. Our breath analyser uses
a combination of gas chromatography and ion mobility spectrometry technologies to analyse a
breath sample with huge benefits for patients and the healthcare system. Huge benefits of
BreathSpec include:

● Non-invasive diagnosis meaning it’s easier for patients to access and complete a test
● Based on well-established technologies that are fast-emerging
● Proven accuracy in detecting respiratory diseases such as lung cancer
● Speed of detection
● Withstanding high testing volumes – making it viable for mass screening
● Small and portable ideal for moving around urgently
● Cost effective for both the patient and healthcare providers

Early detection or diagnosis of infectious diseases could mean a reduction in prescriptions for
medication such as anti-biotics as healthcare professionals have access to more accurate results and
are able to treat the diseases more specifically, potentially saving millions and protecting over-
consumption of a valuable drug.

Our BreathSpec Project combined a consortium of healthcare experts and research departments to
deliver a long term solution. The project has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020
research and innovation programme. You can read more about the project along with our mission
and objectives in detail here.