In vitro and in vivo studies of a rapid and selective breath test for tuberculosis based upon mycobacterial CO dehydrogenase

mBio. 2014 Apr 15;5(2):e00990. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00990-14.


One of the major hurdles in treating tuberculosis (TB) is the time-consuming and difficult methodology for diagnosis. Stable-isotope breath tests hold great potential for rapidly diagnosing an infectious disease, monitoring therapy, and determining a bacterial phenotype in a rapid, point-of-care manner that does not require invasive sampling. Here we describe the preclinical development of a potentially highly selective TB diagnostic breath test based upon the organism's CO dehydrogenase activity. After development of the test in vitro, we were able to use the breath test to discriminate between infected and control rabbits, demonstrating that a diagnosis can potentially be made and also that a complex bacterial phenotype can be noninvasively and rapidly studied in the host. IMPORTANCE Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major infectious cause of disease and death worldwide, and effective diagnosis and then treatment are the tools with which we fight TB. The more quickly and more specific the diagnosis can be made, the better, and this is also true of diagnosis being as close to the patient (point of care) as possible. Here we report our preclinical development of breath tests based upon specific mycobacterial metabolism that could, with development, allow rapid point-of-care diagnosis through measuring the mycobacterial conversion of labeled CO to labeled CO2.

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Mycobacterium / enzymology*
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Rabbits
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*


  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • carbon monoxide dehydrogenase