Current Limitations of Staph Infection Diagnostics, and the Role for VOCs in Achieving Culture-Independent Detection

Carrie L. Jenkins, Heather D. Bean

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Staphylococci are broadly adaptable and their ability to grow in unique environments has been widely established, but the most common and clinically relevant staphylococcal niche is the skin and mucous membranes of mammals and birds. S. aureus causes severe infections in mammalian tissues and organs, with high morbidities, mortalities, and treatment costs. S. epidermidis is an important human commensal but is also capable of deadly infections. Gold-standard diagnostic methods for staph infections currently rely upon retrieval and characterization of the infectious agent through various culture-based methods. Yet, obtaining a viable bacterial sample for in vitro identification of infection etiology remains a significant barrier in clinical diagnostics. The development of volatile organic compound (VOC) profiles for the detection and identification of pathogens is an area of intensive research, with significant efforts toward establishing breath tests for infections. This review describes the limitations of existing infection diagnostics, reviews the principles and advantages of VOC-based diagnostics, summarizes the analytical tools for VOC discovery and clinical detection, and highlights examples of how VOC biomarkers have been applied to diagnosing human and animal staph infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number181
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis
  • biomarkers
  • breath-based diagnostics
  • coagulase negative staphylococci
  • culture-independent identification
  • diagnosis
  • mVOC
  • volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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