Eur J Med Res. 2023 Sep 2;28(1):318. doi: 10.1186/s40001-023-01284-3.
BACKGROUND: An effective testing strategy is essential for pandemic control of the novel Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Breath gas analysis can expand the available toolbox for diagnostic tests by using a rapid, cost-beneficial, high-throughput point-of-care test. We conducted a bi-center clinical pilot study in Germany to evaluate breath gas analysis using multi-capillary column ion mobility spectrometry (MCC-IMS) to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection.
METHODS: Between September 23, 2020, and June 11, 2021, breath gas measurements were performed on 380 patients (SARS-CoV-2 real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) positive: 186; PCR negative: 194) presenting to the emergency department (ED) with respiratory symptoms.
RESULTS: Breath gas analysis using MCC-IMS identified 110 peaks; 54 showed statistically significant differences in peak intensity between the SARS-CoV-2 PCR-negative and PCR-positive groups. A decision tree analysis classification resulted in a sensitivity of 83% and specificity of 86%, but limited robustness to dataset changes. Modest values for the sensitivity (74%) and specificity (52%) were obtained using linear discriminant analysis. A systematic search for peaks led to a sensitivity of 77% and specificity of 67%; however, validation by transferability to other data is questionable.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite identifying several peaks by MCC-IMS with significant differences in peak intensity between PCR-negative and PCR-positive samples, finding a classification system that allows reliable differentiation between the two groups proved to be difficult. However, with some modifications to the setup, breath gas analysis using MCC-IMS may be a useful diagnostic toolbox for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov on September 21, 2020 (NCT04556318; Study-ID: HC-N-H-2004).