Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA) is associated with a distinctive smell produced by a combination of volatile compounds (VCs). Selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS) provides a novel and rapid methodology for rapid, accurate detection of trace quantities (parts per billion; ppb) of VCs in air. We studied the VCs produced by different isolates of PA cultures in vitro from patients with cystic fibrosis. Twenty-one patients with cystic fibrosis provided sputum and cough swab samples for culture. These were used to inoculate blood agar (BA) and Pseudomonas-selective media (PSM). These plates were incubated for 48 hr at 37 degrees C inside sealed plastic bags. The air surrounding the samples after 48 hr (headspace) was analyzed using SIFT-MS. PA growth was commonly associated with the production of significant quantities of VCs, notably hydrogen cyanide gas (HCN). This was detectable in the headspace of 15/22 of PA-positive samples. In contrast, it was only seen in the headspace of 1/13 control samples (6 sterile plates and 7 plates with only mixed upper respiratory tract flora). The concentration of HCN was significantly higher above PA-positive samples than above other bacterial growth (P < 0.01), and in our study, levels of HCN greater than 100 ppb were a sensitive (68%) and highly specific (100%) biomarker of PA. SIFT-MS can detect a range of VCs from PA in vitro. HCN may be a specific indicator of PA infection in vivo, and offers promise as a biomarker for noninvasive detection of PA infection by breath analysis.
Copyright 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc