Can SIFT-MS Detect COVID-19 in Exhaled Breath?

45 days ago

Unsurprisingly, over the past few weeks, we have been asked this question many times.

Exhaled breath contains a range of VOCs that arise from various physiological and microbiological processes in the body. We have many customers that are successfully using SIFT-MS to study these compounds and attempting to assign their presence/absence to various metabolic functions.

Viral diseases alter biological processes to varying degrees. It therefore follows that the suite of exhaled chemicals detectable in breath can be influenced by changes to these processes. Therefore, it is reasonable to predict that the breath of COVID-19 sufferers may contain biomarkers specific to this condition.

SIFT-MS has already shown its potential for rapid virus screening. For example, work has already been published using SIFT-MS to detect the presence of both the H1N1 influenza virus and its vaccine by looking for characteristic biomarkers in breath [1].

Will this work for COVID-19?

As the disease only emerged in December of 2019, no relevant research exists (at the time of writing), so it isn’t possible to definitively answer this question. All we can say is that, at this stage, there is a reasonable chance that it might. As a real-time direct analysis technique, for breath research, SIFT-MS has several important advantages over conventional mass spectrometry. Not least, its ability to sample humid, exhaled breath directly and without pretreatment.

That said, there are cases where indirect sampling is useful and the recent launch of the award winning thermal desorption (TD)-SIFT-MS package [2], allows for breath samples to be collected from patients on thermal desorption tubes. These can be analyzed rapidly in the lab, with typical analysis times of 3-5 minutes per tube: great if you are conducting a large scale trial.

SIFT-MS can also be used in the analytical laboratory for in vitro studies, by measuring the composition of the headspace above samples in vials. Using an autosampler, large numbers of samples can be analyzed automatically and unattended.

If you are interested in using SIFT-MS for COVID-19 research or clinical breath studies, email us on or visit the contact page of our website.

[1] “Effect of the influenza A H1N1 live attenuated intranasal vaccine on nitric oxide (FE(NO)) and other volatiles in exhaled breath” Journal of Breath Research (2015) Vol 5 Iss 3, A. Mashir et al

[2] The TD-SIFT-MS innovation by Syft Technologies and GERSTEL, placed 7th in The Analytical Scientist Innovation Awards 2019.

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Lalit Rane Bsc IT
Marketing Manager