Characterization of the SPIRITAS: A Disposable Sampling Setup for Volatile Organic Compound Collection and Analysis

David J. Mager, Yoni E. van Dijk, Özgü Varan, Susanne J.H. Vijverberg, Suzanne W.J. Terheggen-Lagro, Anke Hilse Maitland-van der Zee, Hettie M. Janssens, Paul Brinkman*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Analyzing exhaled breath for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) using thermal desorption–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) offers a non-invasive diagnostic approach for various diseases. Despite its promise, the method faces challenges like sampling heterogeneity and high costs. Following the European Respiratory Society’s advocacy for methodological standardization, we developed the SPIRITAS (Standardized Product for Inexpensive Respiratory InvesTigation: A breath Sampler), a low-cost, disposable breath sampler. This study evaluates the SPIRITAS’s effectiveness in detecting targeted VOCs. We tested the SPIRITAS using the Peppermint Experiment, a standardized protocol that allows for comparison between different breath sampling and analytical practices by assessing the ability to detect five peppermint-specific VOCs after ingestion of a 200-milligram peppermint oil capsule. We included ten subjects and performed six breath samples per participant, including a baseline measurement taken before ingestion. We used the Wilcoxon signed-rank test to evaluate whether baseline values were significantly lower than the peak values of the targeted VOCs. Additionally, we conducted an experiment utilizing humidified medical-grade air to identify any VOCs attributable to the SPIRITAS setup itself. Results showed successful detection of four out of five targeted “peppermint-associated” VOCs: alpha-pinene (p ≤ 0.01), beta-pinene (p ≤ 0.01), menthone (p = 0.01), and menthol (p = 0.02), indicating significant differences between the baseline and peak values in the volunteers’ breath. However, detection of eucalyptol was inconsistent. In addition, we identified 16 VOCs that were released by the SPIRITAS, one of which remains unidentified. Our findings underscore the SPIRITAS’s potential for clinical applications, paving the way for broader biomarker research. The combination of ease of use, low cost, reduced risk of contamination, and standardization makes SPIRITAS very suitable for large-scale international studies. Furthermore, we have demonstrated the SPIRITAS’s effectiveness in detecting specific VOCs and identified 16 compounds originating from the SPIRITAS, ensuring that these compounds would not be mis-qualified as potential biomarkers in future clinical studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number150
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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