Five Reasons to Use Breath Analysis

Published on: 15 Mar 2024, under Breath Biopsy

Breath analysis is an increasingly promising tool that can be used for disease-specific diagnostic purposes, measure bodily function, and be part of a variety of clinical trials and drug efficacy assessments. Owlstone Medical Breath Biopsy research products and services can help identify relevant volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the breath which can be quantified as biomarkers for disease. Let’s discover the main advantages of using breath analysis:


1. Breath collection is non-invasive

Patients and participants of clinical trials may be more willing to provide a breath sample compared to other sources of biomarkers. For example, bowel cancer screenings and diagnosis of other gut conditions often require fecal sampling. However, providing a stool sample is unpopular and the public often avoids sending in samples (1). Similarly, the fear of needles may prevent patients from doing a blood test. Not only is breath sampling a comfortable experience, but it is also risk-free and does not produce any side effects.

2. Breath reveals compounds originating from pathways throughout the entire body

The heart is constantly pumping blood around the body, including through vessels in the lungs. VOCs from elsewhere in the body diffuse out of the bloodstream at the alveolar surface into the air present in the lungs. These gaseous compounds can therefore be captured from an exhaled breath.

3. Breath doesn’t ‘run out’

Every person needs to breathe, and getting a sample won’t leave you tired or sore. This inexhaustible source of information is easily accessible for a range of applications including for early lung cancer detection research.

4. Breath reflects metabolic activity, which changes faster than genetic markers of disease or protein levels

A key example of the speed at which VOCs in breath can change, is when targeting the liver. As explained here, subjects ingest limonene, a compound that is naturally found in citrus fruit. A healthy liver metabolizes it within minutes to produce VOCs that aren’t normally found in the body. Differing VOC outcomes are suggestive of liver health. Compared to other methods such as tissue biopsies, breath analysis is a more convenient way to gain information about disease-specific metabolic changes in the body.

5. The Breath Biopsy Collection Station is portable.

Using our handheld receiver and associated kit, breath has the potential to be sampled in various medical environments and has the potential to be brought home or otherwise conveniently located for those who are unwell. The portability is particularly supportive of de-centralized clinical trial design.

Find out more about how you can use breath analysis by getting in touch with the team. You can also read about our products and services in more detail here.


  1. Lecky DM, Nakiboneka-Ssenabulya D, Nichols T, Hawkey P, Turner K, Chung KT, et al. Informing future research for carriage of multiresistant Gram-negative bacteria: problems with recruiting to an English stool sample community prevalence study. BMJ Open. 2017 Dec 10;7(12):e017947.
  2. Krauth SJ, Coulibaly JT, Knopp S, Traoré M, N’Goran EK, Utzinger J. An In-Depth Analysis of a Piece of Shit: Distribution of Schistosoma mansoni and Hookworm Eggs in Human Stool. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012 Dec 20;6(12):e1969.