“Breathprinting,” the chemical “fingerprint” of bacteria present in the lungs, can be used to diagnose the presence of lung infections, according to study results in the Journal of Breath Research.

Investigators created secondary electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (SESI-MS) pathogen fingerprints directly from the breath of mice with lung infections and used them to demonstrate that SESI-MS is capable of differentiating infected versus uninfected mice, according to researchers.

“We have demonstrated that SESI-MS breathprinting can be used to diagnose the presence of lung infections, and can identify the pathogen down to the strain level,” the authors wrote, noting that the in vivo breathprints poorly reflect the pathogens’ in vitro volatile fingerprints. “Our in vivo breathprinting study adds to the growing body of literature advancing the promise of successful breath-based diagnostics for infectious diseases; but also underscores the challenges of in vitro models to predict in vivo responses.”

If the process can be accurately reproduced in humans, researchers believe it could be used to quickly and non-invasively diagnose lung infections.