Biomarkers in breath condensate: a promising new non-invasive technique in free radical research

Free Radic Res. 2003 Dec;37(12):1253-66. doi: 10.1080/10715760310001623331.


Oxidative stress is associated with a range of inflammatory lung diseases including asthma, adult respiratory distress syndrome, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia, lung transplantation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis and lung cancer. Increased concentrations of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the airways of such patients are reflected by elevated concentrations of oxidative stress markers in the breath, airways, lung tissue and blood. Traditionally, the measurement of these biomarkers has involved invasive procedures to procure the samples, or examine the compartments. As a consequence, there is a need for less invasive approaches to measure oxidative stress. Analysis of breath hydrocarbons has partly fulfilled this need, however only gas phase volatile constituents can be assessed by this approach. The collection of exhaled breath condensate (EBC) is a simple, non-invasive approach, which comprehensively samples the lower respiratory tract. It is currently used as a research and diagnostic tool in the free radical field, yielding information on redox disturbance and the degree and type of inflammation in the lung. With further technical developments, such an approach may ultimately have a role in the clinic, in helping to diagnose specific lung diseases. EBC can be exploited to assess a spectrum of potential biomarkers, thus generating a "finger print" characteristic of the disease. By assessing the nature of oxidative stress in this manner, the most appropriate therapy can be selected and the response to treatment monitored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Free Radicals / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Oxidative Stress*


  • Biomarkers
  • Free Radicals