Fecal Volatile Metabolomics Predict Gram-Negative Late-Onset Sepsis in Preterm Infants: A Nationwide Case-Control Study

N.M. Frerichs*, S.E. el Hassani, N. Deianova, M.M. van Weissenbruch, A.H. van Kaam, D.C. Vijlbrief, J.B. van Goudoever, C.V. Hulzebos, B.W. Kramer, E.J. d'Haens, V. Cossey, W.P. de Boode, W.J. de Jonge, A.N. Wicaksono, J.A. Covington, M.A. Benninga, N.K.H. de Boer, H.J. Niemarkt, T.G.J. de Meij*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Early detection of late-onset sepsis (LOS) in preterm infants is crucial since timely treatment initiation is a key prognostic factor. We hypothesized that fecal volatile organic compounds (VOCs), reflecting microbiota composition and function, could serve as a non-invasive biomarker for preclinical pathogen-specific LOS detection. Fecal samples and clinical data of all preterm infants (<= 30 weeks' gestation) admitted at nine neonatal intensive care units in the Netherlands and Belgium were collected daily. Samples from one to three days before LOS onset were analyzed by gas chromatography-ion mobility spectrometry (GC-IMS), a technique based on pattern recognition, and gas chromatography-time of flight-mass spectrometry (GC-TOF-MS), to identify unique metabolites. Fecal VOC profiles and metabolites from infants with LOS were compared with matched controls. Samples from 121 LOS infants and 121 matched controls were analyzed using GC-IMS, and from 34 LOS infants and 34 matched controls using GC-TOF-MS. Differences in fecal VOCs were most profound one and two days preceding Escherichia coli LOS (Area Under Curve; p-value: 0.73; p = 0.02, 0.83; p < 0.002, respectively) and two and three days before gram-negative LOS (0.81; p < 0.001, 0.85; p < 0.001, respectively). GC-TOF-MS identified pathogen-specific discriminative metabolites for LOS. This study underlines the potential for VOCs as a non-invasive preclinical diagnostic LOS biomarker.
Original languageEnglish
Article number572
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • neonatology
  • volatile organic compounds
  • gas chromatography-ion mobility spectrometry
  • gas chromatography-time of flight-mass spectrometry
  • fecal biomarker
  • microbiota
  • GUT


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