DOI: 10.1093/jat/bkae007 ISSN: 0146-4760

Potential exhaled breath biomarkers identified in chlorine-exposed mice

Sofia Jonasson, Roger Magnusson, Håkan Wingfors, Åsa Gustafsson, Gregory Rankin, Linda Elfsmark, Lina Mörén
  • Chemical Health and Safety
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Toxicology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry


Exhaled breath (EB) contains various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can indicate specific biological or pathological processes in the body. Analytical techniques like gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) can be used to detect and measure these exhaled biomarkers. In this study, the objective was to develop a non-invasive method of EB sampling in awake animals, as well as to analyze EB for volatile biomarkers specific for chlorine exposure and/or diagnostic biomarkers for chlorine-induced acute lung injury (ALI).

To achieve this, a custom-made sampling device was used to collect EB samples from 19 female Balb/c mice. EB was sampled both pre-exposure (serving as internal control) and 30-min after exposure to chlorine. EB was collected on thermal desorption tubes and subsequently analyzed for VOCs by GC/MS. The following day, the extent of airway injury was assessed in the animals by examining neutrophils in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid.

VOC analysis revealed alterations in the EB biomarker pattern post-chlorine exposure, with eight biomarkers displaying increased levels and six exhibiting decreased levels following exposure. Four chlorinated compounds: trichloromethane, chloroacetone, 1,1-dichloroacetone, and dichloroacetonitrile, were increased in chlorine-exposed mice, suggesting their specificity as chlorine EB biomarkers. Furthermore, chlorine-exposed mice displayed a neutrophilic inflammatory response and body weight loss 24h following exposure.

In conclusion, all animals developed an airway inflammation characterized by neutrophil infiltration and a specific EB pattern that could be extracted after chlorine exposure. Monitoring EB samples can readily and non-invasively provide valuable information on biomarkers for diagnosis of chlorine-induced ALI as well as confirming chlorine exposures.

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