Characterization of volatile metabolites taken up by or released from Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae by using GC-MS

Microbiology (Reading). 2012 Dec;158(Pt 12):3044-3053. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.062687-0. Epub 2012 Oct 11.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from or taken up by Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae cultures were analysed by means of GC-MS after adsorption of headspace samples on multi-bed sorption tubes. Sampling was performed at different time points during cultivation of bacteria to follow the dynamics of VOC metabolism. VOCs were identified not only by spectral library match but also based on retention times of native standards. As many as 34 volatile metabolites were released from S. pneumoniae and 28 from H. influenzae, comprising alcohols, aldehydes, esters, hydrocarbons, ketones and sulfur-containing compounds. For both species, acetic acid, acetaldehyde, methyl methacrylate, 2,3-butanedione and methanethiol were found in strongly elevated concentrations and 1-butanol and butanal in moderately elevated concentrations. In addition, characteristic volatile biomarkers were detected for both bacterial species and exclusively for S. pneumoniae, also catabolism of aldehydes (3-methylbutanal and hexanal) was found. The results obtained provide important input into the knowledge about volatile bacterial biomarkers, which may become particularly important for detection of pathogens in upper airways by breath-gas analysis in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Haemophilus influenzae / metabolism*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / chemistry
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Volatile Organic Compounds