Exhaled Molecular Fingerprinting in Diagnosis and Monitoring: Validating Volatile Promises

Trends Mol Med. 2015 Oct;21(10):633-644. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2015.08.001.


Medical diagnosis and phenotyping increasingly incorporate information from complex biological samples. This has promoted the development and clinical application of non-invasive metabolomics in exhaled air (breathomics). In respiratory medicine, expired volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are associated with inflammatory, oxidative, microbial, and neoplastic processes. After recent proof of concept studies demonstrating moderate to good diagnostic accuracies, the latest efforts in breathomics are focused on optimization of sensor technologies and analytical algorithms, as well as on independent validation of clinical classification and prediction. Current research strategies are revealing the underlying pathophysiological pathways as well as clinically-acceptable levels of diagnostic accuracy. Implementing recent guidelines on validating molecular signatures in medicine will enhance the clinical potential of breathomics and the development of point-of-care technologies.

Keywords: Breath; GC-MS; diagnosis; eNose; metabolomics; volatile organic compounds.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers*
  • Exhalation
  • Humans
  • Metabolomics*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques*
  • Respiration Disorders / diagnosis
  • Volatile Organic Compounds*


  • Biomarkers
  • Volatile Organic Compounds