Journal of breath research

Electrochemical sensor system for breath analysis of aldehydes, CO and NO.

PMID 25749754


Bulky and hyphenated laboratory-based analytical instrumentation such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry is still required to trace breath biomarkers in the low ppbV level. Innovative sensor-based technologies could provide on-site and point-of-care (POC) detection of volatile biomarkers such as breath aldehydes related to oxidative stress and cancer. An electrochemical sensor system was developed for direct detection of the total abundance of aldehydes in exhaled breath in the ppbV level and for simultaneous determination of the airway inflammation markers carbon monoxide (CO) and nitric oxide (NO). The sensor system was tested in vitro with gaseous standard mixtures and in vivo in spontaneously breathing patients and under mechanical ventilation in an animal model. The sensor system provided in vitro and in vivo detection of trace levels of aldehydes, CO and NO. Inertness of the tubing system was important for reliable results. Sensitivity of the aldehyde sensor increased with humidity. Response time for analysis of breath samples was about 22 s and relative standard deviations of sensor amplitudes were <5%. Detection limits in the low ppbV range and a linear range of more than two orders of magnitude could be achieved for volatile aldehydes. Cross sensitivities were moderate for alcohols such as ethanol or isopropanol and negligible for other typical breath volatile organic compounds such as acetone, isoprene or propofol. In proof of concept analyses in patients suffering from lung cancer and diabetes, aldehyde and CO sensor signals differed between the groups. Elevated CO levels indicated previous smoking. In a mechanically ventilated pig, continuous monitoring of breath aldehyde concentrations in the low ppbV was realized. Cumulative aldehyde measurements may add interesting and complementary information to the conventional parameters used in clinical breath research. POC applicability, easy handling and low cost of sensors facilitate measurements in large patient cohorts.