Fungal Infections

March 5, 2012

Developments in novel breath tests for bacterial and fungal pulmonary infection.

Developments in novel breath tests for bacterial and fungal pulmonary infection.

Chambers STScott-Thomas AEpton M.


aDepartment of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch bDepartment of Infectious Diseases cDepartment of Respiratory Medicine, Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand.



Breath testing has developed over the last 20 years. New techniques that can identify fingerprints for specific diseases and specific markers of respiratory pathogens have been applied to breath analysis. This review discusses the recent advances in breath analysis for the diagnosis of bacterial and fungal lower respiratory tract infections.


The current techniques continue to develop rapidly, but preconcentration techniques are needed to analyse many target volatile organic compounds for most systems. Breath testing with an electronic nose is promising for the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB), and specific volatiles identifiable by gas chromatography with mass spectrometry have been identified in breath for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Aspergillus fumigatus, but are found at very low concentrations in breath. Contamination from the environment is an ongoing confounding influence. Exhaled breath condensate (EBC) is disappointing as a diagnostic sample.


Careful attention needs to be paid to the sensitivity and specificity of a technique and confounding from the environment. The role of technologies such as selected ion flow tube-mass spectrometry is emerging. The electronic nose requires further validation for TB. The identification of specific microbial biomarkers aids the quest for improved accuracy. EBC is currently of limited value.

Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

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