Breath Analysis and The Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance has become an ever-growing concern for society today due to its increasing effect on mortality and morbidity. For many years now there has been a huge reliance on antibiotics and hence over prescription by healthcare professionals, and this has ultimately led to the growing problem of antibiotics losing their effectiveness on the human body.

If antibiotic resistance would not be tackled this would lead to ever mounting costs for the healthcare system and longer hospitalization of patients. Realization has meant the government has addressed the need for antibiotics to be used sparingly in humans and animals, and a need for the development of new antibiotics and diagnostics. To tackle antibiotic resistance will require governments, policy makers, healthcare systems and plenty of funding across the world to come together and will take many years to reduce or even stop this problem.1

Breath analysis – how can it help?

Respiratory Tract Infections (RTIs) are a major cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide. In primary care RTIs are usually viral and self limiting and antibiotic prescription is unnecessary. However it is known that numerous unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed for this problem. So there is an ever increasing need for the development of new Point-Of-Care Diagnostics to reduce the need for over-prescription of antibiotics for RTIs.

Analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath is a potential strategy for non-invasive POC diagnosis or exclusion of bacterial infection. VOCs are commonly detected using standard GC-MS technology, however there are limitations to this including, the instruments are large, expensive, cumbersome and usually laboratory based and requiring specialized staff to operate them. With patients, sample collection and analysis would take a long time and is often separated.

Electric nose technology have been known to be used which has shown promise but don’t have the required sensitivity or repeatability in clinical setting.

In GC-IMS technology, the GC component can separate complex chemical mixtures and the IMS detects and separates the chemicals with ultra-high sensitivity. So this technology is a potential possibility to be used to collect exhaled breath samples at the bedside and distinguish bacterial from viral RTIs.2.


Our BreathSpec® system is a GC-IMS instrument that would be ideal for clinical applications where non-invasive patient screening is valuable to aid the clinician decision making process, determining different treatment or monitoring paths and outcomes. Currently we are aiming to help fight antibiotic resistance with our BreathSpec system with a range of key projects.

The main features of the BreathSpec are:

  • Non-invasive analytical instrument
  • Extremely easy to use easy to analyse data
  • Extremely sensitive, with detection levels at low ppbv or even pptv level
  • Integrated with spirometry for simple, safe and approved breath sampling
  • Reproducible analysis through highly advanced sample handling (patent pending)
  • Very fast analysis with results available within minutes
  • Low maintenance, runs at atmospheric pressure, internal gas re-circulator (no separate gas supply needed)
  • Ability to build metabolite databases and characterise peak profiles
  • Principal Component Analysis (PCA) integrated functionality

Contact us to get more details on our BreathSpec® system.

1.Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally: Final Report and Recommendations by Jim O’Neill

2.Identifying volatile metabolite signatures for the diagnosis of bacterial respiratory tract infection using electronic nose technology: A pilot study by Joseph M.Lewis, Richard S.Savage, Nicholas J.Beeching, Mike B. J. Beadsworth, Nicholas Feasey, James A. Covington 2017