Volatile organic compound (VOC)-based diagnostics have great potential to be the next generation of screening tools for pathogen identification and infectious disease management. VOCs are low molecular weight metabolic compounds that have high vapor pressures and low boiling points, both of which facilitate evaporation at ambient temperatures. There is increasing evidence that particular VOCs, or profiles of VOCs, are unique to various disease states. Different pathogenic species have been found to produce characteristic profiles of VOCs by virtue of their distinct metabolisms. The detection of these metabolite profiles from patient samples could provide an effective means of rapid, non-invasive pathogen identification, thus enabling early diagnosis and treatment. In this review, we will discuss the potential of VOC profiles to be utilized as biomarkers of pathogenic infection, with a focus on bacterial pathogens. Herein we describe the common methods for clinical VOC sample collection, provide an overview of the various instruments and techniques used for VOC detection and analysis, and summarize the key findings of recent studies that have investigated VOC biomarkers in various infectious diseases. We will also discuss the challenges associated with translating VOC analysis into a clinical diagnostic tool.
Part of the book: Biosensing Technologies for the Detection of Pathogens