Noninvasive Respiratory Metabolite Analysis Associated with Clinical Disease in Cetaceans: A Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Study

Alberto Pasamontes, Alexander A. Aksenov, Michael Schivo, Teri Rowles, Cynthia R. Smith, Lori H. Schwacke, Randall S. Wells, Laura Yeates, Stephanie Venn-Watson, Cristina E Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Health assessments of wild cetaceans can be challenging due to the difficulty of gaining access to conventional diagnostic matrices of blood, serum and others. While the noninvasive detection of metabolites in exhaled breath could potentially help to address this problem, there exists a knowledge gap regarding associations between known disease states and breath metabolite profiles in cetaceans. This technology was applied to the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history (The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico). An accurate analysis was performed to test for associations between the exhaled breath metabolome and sonographic lung abnormalities as well as hematological, serum biochemical, and endocrine hormone parameters. Importantly, metabolites consistent with chronic inflammation, such as products of lung epithelial cellular breakdown and arachidonic acid cascade metabolites were associated with sonographic evidence of lung consolidation. Exhaled breath condensate (EBC) metabolite profiles also correlated with serum hormone concentrations (cortisol and aldosterone), hepatobiliary enzyme levels, white blood cell counts, and iron homeostasis. The correlations among breath metabolites and conventional health measures suggest potential application of breath sampling for remotely assessing health of wild cetaceans. This methodology may hold promise for large cetaceans in the wild for which routine collection of blood and respiratory anomalies are not currently feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5737-5746
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 16 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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