Breath Biopsy® of Elite Runners Engaging in Exhaustive Exercise

Breath Biopsy® of Elite Runners Engaging in Exhaustive Exercise

Kelley, E 1; Stewart, G 1; Wheatley-Guy, C ; Schwartz, J ; Fermoyle, C ; Ziegler, B ; Johnson, K ; Robach, P ; Basset, P 3; Schaber, C 4; Shaw, E 4; Boyle, B 4; Johnson, B 1

1. Human Integrative and Environmental Physiology Laboratory Mayo Clinic, 200 First St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA;

2. Ecole Nationale des Sports de Montagne, site de l'Ecole Nationale de Ski et d'Alpinisme, Chamonix, France;

3. Ultra Sport Science Foundation, 109 Bd de l'Europe, 69310 Pierre-Bénite, France;

4. Owlstone Medical, 183 Cambridge Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0GJ, UK;

Poster PDF


Exhaustive exercise triggers unique physiological responses as well as having the potential to cause lung damage from physical stress. This is an interesting context in which to study changes in exhaled volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Given that the changes are occurring in the lungs, it is reasonable to expect significant changes in VOCs on breath. While blood biomarkers of exhaustive exercise have been reported, there is currently little evidence from breath research. Furthermore, these results could be relevant in helping to understand responses to lung damage in other settings.

Our study aimed to identify potential VOC biomarkers of exhaustive exercise using samples collected from a small group of competitors in the 2019 Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) ultra-marathon. Using Breath Biopsy, we investigated changes in VOC abundance between matched pairs of samples collected before and after the 170 km race. The method used was an enhanced version of one trialled in 2018. In the present study, samples were analyzed using high resolution accurate mass (HRAM) GC-Orbitrap™ mass spectrometry.

The enhanced methodology identified over 800 VOC signals of which 161 showed significant differences pre-correction. This poster presents preliminary analysis of these results and highlights several VOC signals of particular interest for possible follow-up investigation. These results demonstrate significant changes in VOC abundance as a result of exhaustive exercise and support the need for further investigation of breath research in this context.



  • Official comment

    Hi Milena,
    We're glad you like the research and we'd be happy to talk to you about it more. We do relative abundance semi-quantification compared to standards, we don't currently have absolute quantification.

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  • Very interesting work! Did you do any VOCs quantification? If yes, what was the concentration level of acetic acid in breath after the race? Thank you!

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  • Jonathan, thank you for your answer! Can you tell approximately how many times acetic acid signal has been increased after the race, comparing to matching value before the race?

    If you have any other publication referring this research, I'll be glad to read it!

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