Breathprinting Reveals Malaria-Associated Biomarkers and Mosquito Attractants

Chad L. Schaber, Nalin Katta, Lucy B. Bollinger, Mwawi Mwale, Rachel Mlotha-Mitole, Indi Trehan, Barani Raman, Audrey R. Odom John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1553-1560
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - Apr 23 2018


  • Malaria
  • biomarkers
  • breath
  • terpenes
  • volatile organic compounds


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