Volatile organic compounds in the breath of oral candidiasis patients: a pilot study



The aim of the study was to investigate whether specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be detected in oral candidiasis patients using breath analysis in order to develop a point-of-care diagnostic tool.


Breath samples of 10 diseased patients and 10 subjects carrying no Candida spp. were analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. In infected patients, breath tests were performed before and after antifungal therapy.


Breath testing was positive for 143 volatiles in both healthy subjects and diseased patients. Among those, specific signature volatiles known to be emitted by Candida spp. in vitro were not detected. Even though no specific signature was retrieved from the diseased patients, a pattern containing nine compounds (2-methyl-2-butanol, hexanal, longifolene, methyl acetate, 1-heptene, acetophenone, decane, 3-methyl-1-butanol, chlorbenzene) was identified, which showed characteristic changes after antifungal therapy.


Focusing on the identified pattern, breath analysis may be applied to confirm the absence of Candida spp. after therapy in terms of a confirmatory test supplementing clinical examination, thereby replacing microbial testing. However, microbial testing will still be needed to initially confirm clinical diagnoses, as no specific signature was found.

Clinical relevance: A breath test may help in avoiding extended antifungal administration resulting in resistance development and might be useful in the monitoring of disease recurrences in vulnerable groups.

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The authors would like to thank Mrs. Janette Nickel-Seeber for her help with the mVOC Database queries.

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Correspondence to Saskia Preissner.

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For this work, no specific funding was received.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Hertel, M., Schuette, E., Kastner, I. et al. Volatile organic compounds in the breath of oral candidiasis patients: a pilot study. Clin Oral Invest 22, 721–731 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00784-017-2147-6

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  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Oral candidiasis
  • Oropharyngeal candidiasis
  • Fungal infection
  • Breath test
  • GC/MS