Have you ever wondered what is the composition of breath we exhale? Or how much the deviation
from ‘normal parameters’ says about the life and condition of the individual?
In M3NIR, within the use case No. 3 we have exactly that in mind. Human breath intertwines with
the world and shares secrets with the environment. It leaves behind a trail of stories told by each
exhaled molecule containing a fragment of the exhaler’s life and health status.
Predicting human health problems by analyzing exhaled air is a fascinating and promising field, as
the composition of exhaled air contains a complex mixture of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
and other gases that can provide valuable information on an individuals state of health. Different
health conditions can alter the composition of exhaled air leading to the presence of specific
biomarkers that can indicate health problems such as respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma), metabolic
disorders (e.g. diabetes), gastrointestinal diseases, infectious diseases (e.g. tuberculosis and
respiratory infections), liver and kidney diseases or even cancer.
In the context of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) – a bacteria linked to conditions such as gastritis and
gastric and duodenal ulcers – diagnosis often requires invasive methods such as biopsy and
endoscopy. However, there is a non-invasive alternative for detecting these bacteria – exhaled
breath analysis! If H. pylori is present in the gastrointestinal tract, it generates an enzyme called
urease that breaks down urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide. By ingesting a small amount of
carbon-13-labeled urea, it is possible to determine the amount of labelled carbon dioxide ( 13 CO 2 )
released upon exhalation vs. natural carbon dioxide ( 12 CO 2 ) occurring form other physiological
processes in the body. In case of an H. pylori infection, 13 CO 2 will be observed during breath analysis.
This methodology represents an accurate, safe and non-invasive way to detect this bacterial
infection, also allowing for monitoring treatment effectiveness.
It’s essential to note that while breath analysis holds significant potential, it is still an emerging field.
Mid-infrared breath diagnostics, for instance, was discussed during the plenary talk by PI Boris
Mizaikoff at the ANAKON Conference in Vienna/Austria in April 2023 on the occasion of being
awarded the Fritz-Pregl-Medal by the Austrian Society of Analytical Chemistry (https://www.hahn-
M3NIR team is proud to be part of further research to establish breath analysis clinical applicability,
accuracy and availability.