Publication date: Sep 01, 2023
Although rapid screening for and diagnosis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are still urgently needed, most current testing methods are long, costly or poorly specific. The objective of the present study was to determine whether or not artificial-intelligence-enhanced real-time mass spectrometry breath analysis is a reliable, safe, rapid means of screening ambulatory patients for COVID-19. In two prospective, open, interventional studies in a single university hospital, we used real-time, proton transfer reaction time-of-flight mass spectrometry to perform a metabolomic analysis of exhaled breath from adults requiring screening for COVID-19. Artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques were used to build mathematical models based on breath analysis data either alone or combined with patient metadata. We obtained breath samples from 173 participants, of whom 67 had proven COVID-19. After using machine learning algorithms to process breath analysis data and further enhancing the model using patient metadata, our method was able to differentiate between COVID-19-positive and -negative participants with a sensitivity of 98%, a specificity of 74%, a negative predictive value of 98%, a positive predictive value of 72% and an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 0. 961. The predictive performance was similar for asymptomatic, weakly symptomatic and symptomatic participants and was not biased by COVID-19 vaccination status. Real-time, noninvasive, artificial-intelligence-enhanced mass spectrometry breath analysis might be a reliable, safe, rapid, cost-effective, high-throughput method for COVID-19 screening.
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