Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Publications

Campus Units

Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Toxicology

Document Type


Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Scientific Reports



First Page


Research Focus Area(s)

Animal Production Systems Engineering




The primary hurdle for diagnosis of some diseases is the long incubation required to culture and confirm the presence of bacteria. The concept of using microbial VOCs as “signature markers” could provide a faster and noninvasive diagnosis. Finding biomarkers is challenging due to the specificity required in complex matrices. The objectives of this study were to (1) build/test a lab-scale platform for screening of microbial VOCs and (2) apply it to Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis; the vaccine strain of M. bovis Bacillus Calmette-Guérin; and M. kansasii to demonstrate detection times greater those typically required for culture. SPME-GC-MS was used for sampling, sample preparation, and analyses. For objective (1), a testing platform was built for headspace sampling of bacterial cultures grown in standard culture flasks via a biosecure closed-loop circulating airflow system. For (2), results show that the suites of VOCs produced by Mycobacteria ssp. change over time and that individual strains produce different VOCs. The developed method was successful in discriminating between strains using a pooled multi-group analysis, and in timepoint-specific multi- and pair-wise comparisons. The developed testing platform can be useful for minimally invasive and biosecure collection of biomarkers associated with human, wildlife and livestock diseases for development of diagnostic point-of-care and field surveillance.


This article is published as Maurer, Devin L., Christine K. Ellis, Tyler C. Thacker, Somchai Rice, Jacek A. Koziel, Pauline Nol, and Kurt C. VerCauteren. "Screening of microbial volatile organic compounds for detection of disease in cattle: Development of lab-scale method." Scientific Reports 9, no. 1 (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-47907-w. Posted with permission.




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