Breath analysis as a potential diagnostic tool for tuberculosis.

A.H. Kolk*, J.J.B.N. van Berkel, M.M. Claassens, E. Walters, S. Kuijper, J.W. Dallinga, F.J. van Schooten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

64 Citations (Web of Science)


SETTING: Cape Town, South Africa.OBJECTIVES: We investigated the potential of breath analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to discriminate between samples collected prospectively from patients with suspected tuberculosis (TB).DESIGN: Samples were obtained in a TB-endemic setting in South Africa, where 28% of culture-proven TB patients had Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) negative sputum smear. A training set of breath samples from 50 sputum culture-proven TB patients and 50 culture-negative non-TB patients was analysed using GC-MS. We used support vector machine analysis for classification of the patient samples into TB and non-TB.RESULTS: A classification model with seven compounds had a sensitivity of 72%, a specificity of 86% and an accuracy of 79% compared with culture. The classification model was validated with breath samples from a different set of 21 TB and 50 non-TB patients from the same area, giving a sensitivity of 62%, a specificity of 84% and an accuracy of 77%.CONCLUSION: This study shows that GC-MS breath analysis is able to differentiate between TB and non-TB breath samples even among patients with a negative ZN sputum smear but a positive culture for Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We conclude that breath analysis by GC-MS merits further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-782
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


  • gas chromatography-mass spectrometry
  • training set
  • validation set
  • volatile organic compounds
  • statistical analysis
  • AREA

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