Changes of breath volatile organic compounds in healthy volunteers following segmental and inhalation endotoxin challenge

Olaf Holz, Robert van Vorstenbosch, Frank Günther, Sven Schuchardt, Frederik Trinkmann, Frederik Jan van Schooten, Agnieszka Smolinska, Jens Hohlfeld

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It is still unclear how airway inflammation affects the breath volatile organic compounds (VOCs) profile in exhaled air. We therefore analyzed breath following well-defined pulmonary endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) challenges. Breath was collected from ten healthy non-smoking subjects at eight time points before and after segmental and whole lung LPS inhalation challenge. Four Tenax-TA (R) adsorption tubes were simultaneously loaded from an aluminum reservoir cylinder and independently analyzed by two research groups using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Airway inflammation was assessed in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and in sputum after segmental and inhaled LPS challenge, respectively. Segmental LPS challenge significantly increased the median (interquartile range, IQR) percentage of neutrophils in BAL from 3.0 (4.2) % to 64.0 (7.3) %. The inhalation challenge increased sputum neutrophils from 33.9 (26.8) % to 78.3 (13.5) %. We observed increases in breath aldehydes at both time points after segmental and inhaled LPS challenge. These results were confirmed by an independent laboratory. The longitudinal breath analysis also revealed distinct VOC patterns related to environmental exposures, clinical procedures, and to metabolic changes after food intake. Changes in breath aldehydes suggest a relationship to LPS induced inflammation compatible with lipid peroxidation processes within the lung. Findings from our longitudinal data highlight the need for future studies to better consider the potential impact of the multiple VOCs from detergents, hygiene or lifestyle products a subject is continuously exposed to. We suspect that this very individual 'owncloud' exposure is contributing to an increased variability of breath aldehydes, which might limit a use as inflammatory markers in daily clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number037102
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Breath Research
Issue number3
Early online date2 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • airway inflammation
  • aldehydes
  • breath analysis
  • non-invasive monitoring
  • oxidative stress

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