Current evidence suggests that malarial infection could alter metabolites in the breath of patients, a phenomenon that could be exploited to create a breath-based diagnostic test. However, no study has explored this in a clinical setting. To investigate whether natural human malarial infection leads to a characteristic breath profile, we performed a field study in Malawi. Breath volatiles from children with and those without uncomplicated falciparum malaria were analyzed by thermal desorption-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Using an unbiased, correlation-based analysis, we found that children with malaria have a distinct shift in overall breath composition. Highly accurate classification of infection status was achieved with a suite of 6 compounds. In addition, we found that infection correlates with significantly higher breath levels of 2 mosquito-attractant terpenes, α-pinene and 3-carene. These findings attest to the viability of breath analysis for malaria diagnosis, identify candidate biomarkers, and identify plausible chemical mediators for increased mosquito attraction to patients infected with malaria parasites.
- volatile organic compounds