Non-invasive approach to diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis using microdroplets collected from exhaled air

J Breath Res. 2018 Apr 4;12(3):036010. doi: 10.1088/1752-7163/aab3f2.


In this report we present a proof-of-principle study aimed at developing non-invasive diagnostics for pulmonary TB that are based on analyzing TB biomarkers in exhaled microdroplets of lung fluid (MLFs). Samples were collected on electrospun filters recently developed by the authors, and then tested for the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) cells, Mtb DNA, and protein biomarkers (secreted Mtb antigens and antigen-specific antibodies). The latter were detected using rapid ultra-sensitive immunochemistry methods developed in our laboratory. Neither Mtb cells (limit of detection, LOD = 1 cell) nor Mtb DNA (LOD ∼ 10 CFU) were found in the MLF samples exhaled by TB patients. However, immunoglobulin A (IgA) was found in over 90% of samples from TB patients and healthy volunteers. Antigen-specific IgA were detected at higher rates in the patient samples as compared to those from nominally healthy volunteers resulting in a modest discrimination level of 72% sensitivity and 58% specificity. As such, this novel, non-invasive and fast breath diagnostic method shows promise for further development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies / metabolism
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Fluids / metabolism
  • Breath Tests / methods*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Exhalation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microspheres*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / physiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / pathology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Biomarkers