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The peppermint breath test: A benchmarking protocol for breath sampling and analysis using GC-MS

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journal contribution
posted on 19.03.2021, 14:43 authored by M Wilkinson, I White, K Hamshere, O Holz, S Schuchardt, FG Bellagambi, T Lomonaco, D Biagini, FF Di, SJ Fowler, JD Beauchamp, SM Cristescu, JF Focant, FA Franchina, S Grassin-Delyle, A Hadjithekli, B Henderson, GF Koppen, J Langejürgen, M Malásková, C Mayhew, S Moreno, M Pedrotti, G Pugliese, Dorota Ruszkiewicz, Dahlia Salman, P Sinues, GF Slingers, PH Stefanuto, Paul Thomas, M Wilde, D Zanella, R Zenobi
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd Exhaled breath contains hundreds of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which offer the potential for diagnosing and monitoring a wide range of diseases. As the breath research field has grown, sampling and analytical practices have become highly varied between groups. Standardisation would allow meta-analyses of data from multiple studies and greater confidence in published results. Washout of VOCs from ingestion into the blood and subsequently breath could provide data for an initial assessment of inter-group performance. The Peppermint Initiative has been formed to address this task of standardisation. In the current study we aimed to generate initial benchmark values for thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) analysis of breath samples containing peppermint-derived VOCs using data from three independent European research groups. Initially, headspace analysis of peppermint oil capsules was performed to determine compounds of interest. Ten healthy participants were recruited by each three groups across Europe. The standard Peppermint protocol was followed. In brief, each participant provided a baseline breath sample prior to taking a peppermint capsule, with further samples collected at 60, 90, 165, 285 and 360 min following ingestion. Sampling and analytical protocols were different for each group, in line with their usual practice. Samples were analysed by TD-GC-MS and benchmarking values determined for the time taken for detected peppermint VOCs to return to baseline values. Sixteen compounds were identified in the capsule headspace, and all were confirmed in breath following ingestion of the peppermint capsules. Additionally, 2,3-dehydro-1,8-cineole was uniquely found in the breath samples, with a washout profile that suggested it was a product of metabolism of peppermint compounds. Five compounds (α-pinene, β-pinene, eucalyptol, menthol and menthone) were quantified by all three groups. Differences were observed between the groups, particularly for the recovery of menthone and menthol. The average time taken for VOCs to return to baseline was selected as the benchmark and were 377, 423, 533, 418 and 336 min for α-pinene, β-pinene, eucalyptol, menthone and menthol respectively. We have presented an initial set of easy-to-measure benchmarking values for assessing the performance of TD-GC-MS systems for the analysis of VOCs in breath. These values will be updated when more groups provide additional data.



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  • Chemistry

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Journal of Breath Research








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This is an Open Access Article. It is published by IoP under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at:

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Prof Paul Thomas. Deposit date: 17 March 2021

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