Elemental and ion composition of exhaled air condensate in cystic fibrosis

J Cyst Fibros. 2003 Sep;2(3):136-42. doi: 10.1016/S1569-1993(03)00062-6.


Background: In cystic fibrosis (CF) the exact ion composition of the airway surface fluid is still debated and it is not clear if it differs from healthy subjects. The air that we exhale contains small droplets, which are generated by shear forces from the airway surface fluid and very likely mirror its ion composition. We hypothesized that differences between CF-patients and healthy controls would be reflected by differences in their exhaled air.

Methods: In nasally collected exhaled breath condensate from 20 children and young adults with cystic fibrosis and 20 healthy subjects, the elements and anions were determined by optical emission spectroscopy and ion-exchange chromatography.

Results: The concentrations of the major components Na and Cl- did not differ, Zn was higher and NO3- was lower in CF-patients. During a given time period, CF-patients produced a slightly larger volume of breath condensate and they exhaled more Na, K and Zn. Fluoride was detected in half of all samples, whereas copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and sulfur were present only sporadically, with no differences.

Conclusions: These data detail the composition of exhaled breath condensate and suggest a similar Na and Cl- concentration in CF-airway surface fluid as in healthy subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anions / metabolism*
  • Breath Tests
  • Child
  • Chromatography, Ion Exchange
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism*
  • Elements*
  • Exhalation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Anions
  • Elements