Detection of Group B Streptococcus in pregnancy by vaginal volatile organic compound analysis: a prospective exploratory study

Transl Res. 2020 Feb:216:23-29. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2019.09.002. Epub 2019 Sep 18.


Our objective was to assess whether volatile organic compound (VOC) analysis of vaginal swabs can detect maternal Group B Streptococcus (GBS) during pregnancy in a prospective exploratory study. Around 243 women attending a high-risk antenatal clinic at one university teaching hospital in the UK consented to take part and provide vaginal swabs throughout pregnancy. VOC analysis of vaginal swabs was undertaken and compared with the reference standard of GBS detected using enrichment culture method. The chemical components that emanated from the vaginal swabs were measured by gas chromatograph ion mobility spectrometry. This platform has both high sensitivity and good specificity to a range of chemical compounds. Our main outcome was to determine the sensitivity and specificity of VOC analysis for the detection of maternal GBS in vaginal swabs during pregnancy. Our study has demonstrated that the sensitivity and specificity of the VOC analysis by GC-IMS for the detection of GBS from vaginal swabs was 0.81 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.71-0.89) and 0.97 (95% CI, 0.91-1) respectively. We conclude that the use of VOCs as biomarkers for the detection of maternal GBS in the vagina is a novel tool. As this test produces results within minutes and is of low unit test cost, it has the potential to be used in clinical settings, where fast diagnosis is important, for example, a patient in early labour.

Keywords: EOGBS = early-onset group B Streptococcus; GBS = Group B Streptococcus; GC-IMS = gas chromatograph ion mobility spectrometry; GCMS = gas chromatograph mass spectrometer; GC = gas chromatograph; IMS = ion mobility spectrometry; VOC = volatile organic compound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / isolation & purification*
  • Vagina / metabolism*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism*


  • Volatile Organic Compounds