Gas Chromatography

  • Is There a Breath Test for COVID-19? - Chromatography Explores

Is There a Breath Test for COVID-19? - Chromatography Explores

Mar 15 2021 Read 97 Times

The importance of an effective testing method for SARS-CoV-2 virus is crucial in our attempts to reduce the impact of both the virus and the resulting disease Covid-19. In fact, the World Health Organization had a simple message to all countries to simply “test, test, test”. Even when the vaccine programme has been fully deployed, a quick, simple, and reliable test will still be a key component as health departments and governments try to keep the virus under control and society ‘open’.

There are several methods that are currently used to test for Covid-19. The gold-standard is the quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) which uses nasal or oral swabs and needs a laboratory test regime to determine the results. There is also the so-called Lateral Flow Tests that have been rolled out on a large scale to enable school children to return to the classroom in the UK. These are quick tests, but many have questioned their reliability.

Point of care test

A simple point-of-care test that can allow a diagnosis of Covid-19 providing a rapid differentiation between other respiratory infections such as flu, could provide a much-needed boost in improving the prognosis of patients. One avenue that is being investigated is breath analysis and researchers have been working on a simple, quick, and non-invasive test. If such a test can be devised, it could be a game changer as theoretically it could be rolled out at airports, schools and other venues providing a simple and effective method to control the virus.

Research has been carried out in several places into analysing breath samples for Covid-19 detection. Studies have been carried out in the UK and Germany with a system based on gas chromatography-ion mobility spectrometry. There is also a research team based in Canada using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and gas chromatography-ion mobility spectrometry. For a greater understanding of gas chromatography look at the article, Gas Chromatography Troubleshooting Part I – Peak Shape Issues.

Testing the volatiles using GC

The team in Canada is working to identify the volatile organic compounds that are specific to coronavirus. Your breath contains over 1000 volatile organic compounds that are made at the endpoints of the many metabolic processes that go on in the body. Reading these can give an indication of your health or state of disease.

So far, the team have tested over 300 samples using GC-MS or GC-IMS. They compare the positive and negative samples looking for differences. There is still a long way to go before machines are developed and rolled out at local venues. But if it works, a simple breath into a tube could help to open society again and keep it open.

Digital Edition

Chromatography Today - March 2021

March 2021

In This Edition Modern & Practical Applications - Advancing Effective Glycan Analysis - Delivering the Power of Ion Mobility Spectrometry - Mass Spectrometry to the Point of Analysis - The...

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