Breath-based biomarkers for tuberculosis
We investigated the potential of breath analysis by gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to discriminate between samples collected prospectively from patients with suspected tuberculosis (TB). Samples were obtained in a TB endemic setting in South Africa where 28% of the culture proven TB patients had a Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) negative sputum smear. A training set of breath samples from 50 sputum culture proven TB patients and 50 culture negative non-TB patients was analyzed by GC-MS. A classification model with 7 compounds resulted in a training set with a sensitivity of 72%, specificity of 86% and accuracy of 79% compared with culture. The classification model was validated with an independent set of breath samples from 21 TB and 50 non-TB patients. A sensitivity of 62%, specificity of 84% and accuracy of 77% was found. We conclude that the 7 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that discriminate breath samples from TB and non-TB patients in our study population are probably host-response related VOCs and are not derived from the VOCs secreted by M. tuberculosis. It is concluded that at present GC-MS breath analysis is able to differentiate between TB and non-TB breath samples even among patients with a negative ZN sputum smear but a positive culture for M. tuberculosis. Further research is required to improve the sensitivity and specificity before this method can be used in routine laboratories. © 2012 SPIE.