Concentrations of some metabolites in the breath of healthy children aged 7-18 years measured using selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS)

J Breath Res. 2009 Sep;3(3):036001. doi: 10.1088/1752-7155/3/3/036001. Epub 2009 May 15.


Using selected ion flow tube mass spectrometry (SIFT-MS), measurements have been made of the levels of several metabolites in the exhaled breath of 200 healthy school children. Thus, concentration distributions of each metabolite have been obtained for the first time in the paediatric age range. The median values (in parentheses) of the concentrations in parts per billion, ppb, were ammonia (628), acetone (297), methanol (193), ethanol (187), isoprene (37), propanol (16), acetaldehyde (23) and pentanol (15). Hydrogen cyanide was not present in the breath above the detection limit of 2 ppb in the majority of subjects. The water vapour level (humidity) of the breath samples was routinely measured as a check on the sample integrity. Such data are essential if SIFT-MS breath analyses are to be used as a clinical tool to aid diagnosis and/or as a monitor of disease in children. The levels of metabolites usually followed a log-normal distribution and the levels of some compounds were similar to those obtained previously in adults. Lower values were found in the levels of acetone, ammonia, methanol and isoprene. There were no major variations in relation to gender. Some metabolites showed significant variation in relation to age and body mass index. To our knowledge, these are the first measurements of exhaled mouth breath pentanol levels. The median ammonia levels in mouth-exhaled breath of these children decreased with age, whereas in older adults, ammonia has been shown to increase with age. Breath acetone levels were significantly increased for those who had not eaten for more than 6 h prior to providing the breath sample, although dietary control was not a mandatory aspect of the protocol.