Breath Gas Analysis for COVID-19 Detection

At present, SARS-CoV-2 has the world in its grasp. A huge step in the right direction would be a non-invasive, fast test to identify an infection. There is a high chance that this disease can be detected in exhaled breath.

IONICON PTR-TOF systems are now the de-facto standard for real-time breath analysis. Below, their offerings for COVID-19 detection in breath are outlined.

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

There is a high probability that COVID-19 can be detected in breath.

There is a high probability that COVID-19 can be detected in breath. Image Credit: Ionicon Analytik Ges.m.b.H.

In recent years, breath gas analysis of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) has become a growing field of research. In the blood gas exchange in the lung 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 lungs directly or in the body. Using this mechanism, researchers are attempting to identify volatile biomarkers in exhaled breath which indicate a disease or to monitor the response to pharmacological treatments. Sampling exhaled breath is simple and non-invasive.

The challenge is the analysis. Several hundred VOCs have so far been identified in exhaled breath and their range of concentrations, typically in the parts-per-billion (ppb) range, are a challenge to most modern analyzers.

IONICON PTR-TOF systems are especially well suited for breath gas analysis. Their linearity range and detection limits match the concentrations usually discovered in breath. Their high mass resolving power separates isobaric compounds.

Breath gas spectrum collected by IONICON PTR-TOF and extracted real-time concentrations of selected VOCs.

Breath gas spectrum collected by IONICON PTR-TOF and extracted real-time concentrations of selected VOCs. Image Credit: Ionicon Analytik Ges.m.b.H.

In addition to offline analysis, the fast response time and high sensitivity of these systems permits the user to analyze breath online and in real-time.

This method supplies instant results and avoids any complications which could arise from sample collection and storage. By utilizing an IONICON PTR-TOF 6000 X2, several hundred compounds can be measured at the same time from a single exhalation with limits of detection in the ppt range (1 ppt = 0.001 ppb).

BET Sampler for Direct Real-Time Exhaled Breath VOC Analysis with PTR-TOFMS

BET Sampler for Direct Real-Time Exhaled Breath VOC Analysis with PTR-TOFMS. Image Credit: Ionicon Analytik Ges.m.b.H.

Several clinical trials have been performed testing a specialized breath sampling inlet (BET) for PTR-TOF. In order to avoid contagion between patients – a prerequisite to study infectious diseases, the BET uses disposable, clinically certified, non-rebreathing mouthpieces.

Furthermore, gas from a respirator can be sampled to monitor breath VOCs of ventilated patients by utilizing an extended heated inlet line.

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

When examining the pathophysiology of COVID-19, there are several indications that a SARS-CoV-2 infection is detectable in the breath VOC pattern.

The disease can affect several organs and has been reported to cause a multitude of symptoms. That supports the assumption that the metabolism is affected in a number of ways and that the volatile metabolite distribution is altered.

The fast detection of COVID-19-specific breath VOCs would be a huge advancement for diagnostic purposes. A spectrum of VOCs could be employed for a response to conventional or investigational drugs or monitoring disease progression.

Since, at this stage, therapies for COVID-19 are experimental, directly monitoring the effect of a therapeutic drug speeds up the process to produce an efficient treatment for COVID-19.

Thanks to breath researchers such as Dr. Stanislas Grassin Delyle from the Hôpital Foch in Suresnes, France and University Paris-Saclay (UVSQ), the PTR-TOF solutions from Ionicon 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.

Dr. Stanislas Grassin Delyle

About Ionicon Analytik Ges.m.b.H.

IONICON Analytik was founded 1998 as a spin-off company of the University of Innsbruck, Austria commercializing an innovative technology called Proton Transfer Reaction - Mass Spectrometry. Since then we have been improving this leading-edge technology resulting in the development of several types of ultra sensitive high resolution online mass spectrometers for monitoring and quantification of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in sub-pptv level concentrations. 

Today we are the world’s leading producer of trace gas analyzers with market-leading, real-time, single-digit pptv-level detection limits using the unique Proton Transfer Reaction – Mass Spectrometry (PTR-MS) and Selective Reagent Ionization – Mass Spectrometry (SRI-MS) technology. Our product portfolio comprises our renowned PTR-TOF instruments, air monitoring solutions and custom built TOF-MS, complemented by our own range of trace calibration devices and accessories.

We developed our own "ioniTOF" time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometer platform that we produce in-house for our PTR-TOF series instruments and APi-TOF systems. We also strive to let others benefit from our customizable, affordable ioniTOF ecosystem for research and OEM applications.

Since 1998, we are serving our customers in many different application areas including atmospheric chemistry, environmental research and trace gas analysis (e.g. emissions in urban and remote areas, indoor spaces, vehicles), food and flavour science (e.g. analysis of coffee, olive oil, butter, cheese, wine, herbal extracts and aromas, e-cigarettes & "ENDS"), industrial VOC monitoring (e.g. in chemical factories and production sites of the semiconductor industry) and illicit substances detection (Explosives, CWAs, TICs). We have also developed special knowledge in medical and biotechnological applications where real-time monitoring of industrial fermentation processes, of synthetic gas production processes in the petrochemical industry and real-time breath gas analysis in clinical settings are carried out.

We also offer analytical services and are an active contributor to numerous international scientific research and training projects.

We proudly manufacture our precision instruments in Innsbruck, Austria.


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Last updated: Jun 2, 2020 at 5:52 AM

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