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J Breath Res. 2016 Mar 17;10(2):026001. doi: 10.1088/1752-7155/10/2/026001.

Characterization of exhaled breath particles collected by an electret filter technique.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Karolinska University Laboratory Huddinge, Stockholm, Sweden.


Aerosol particles that are present in exhaled breath carry nonvolatile components and have gained interest as a specimen for potential biomarkers. Nonvolatile compounds detected in exhaled breath include both endogenous and exogenous compounds. The aim of this study was to study particles collected with a new, simple and convenient filter technique. Samples of breath were collected from healthy volunteers from approximately 30 l of exhaled air. Particles were counted with an optical particle counter and two phosphatidylcholines were measured by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. In addition, phosphatidylcholines and methadone was analysed in breath from patients in treatment with methadone and oral fluid was collected with the Quantisal device. The results demonstrated that the majority of particles are  <1 μm in size and that the fraction of larger particle contributes most to the total mass. The phosphatidylcholine PC(16 : 0/16 : 0) dominated over PC(16 : 0/18 : 1) and represented a major constituent of the particles. The concentration of the PC(16 : 0/16 : 0) homolog was significantly correlated (p  <  0.001) with total mass. From the low concentration of the two phosphatidylcholines and their relative abundance in oral fluid a major contribution from the oral cavity could be ruled out. The concentration of PC(16 : 0/16 : 0) in breath was positively correlated with age (p  <  0.01). An attempt to use PC(16 : 0/16 : 0) as a sample size indicator for methadone was not successful, as the large intra-individual variability between samplings even increased after normalization. In conclusion, it was demonstrated that exhaled breath sampled with the filter device represents a specimen corresponding to surfactant. The possible use of PC(16 : 0/16 : 0) as a sample size indicator was supported and deserves further investigations. We propose that the direct and selective collection of the breath aerosol particles is a promising strategy for measurement of nonvolatiles in breath.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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