Cellular scent of influenza virus infection.

Alexander A. Aksenov, Christian E. Sandrock, Weixiang Zhao, Shankar Sankaran, Michael Schivo, Richart Harper, Carol J. Cardona, Zheng Xing, Cristina E. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emanating from humans have the potential to revolutionize non-invasive diagnostics. Yet, little is known about how these compounds are generated by complex biological systems, and even less is known about how these compounds are reflective of a particular physiological state. In this proof-of-concept study, we examined VOCs produced directly at the cellular level from B lymphoblastoid cells upon infection with three live influenza virus subtypes: H9N2 (avian), H6N2 (avian), and H1N1 (human). Using a single cell line helped to alleviate some of the complexity and variability when studying VOC production by an entire organism, and it allowed us to discern marked differences in VOC production upon infection of the cells. The patterns of VOCs produced in response to infection were unique for each virus subtype, while several other non-specific VOCs were produced after infections with all three strains. Also, there was a specific time course of VOC release post infection. Among emitted VOCs, production of esters and other oxygenated compounds was particularly notable, and these may be attributed to increased oxidative stress resulting from infection. Elucidating VOC signatures that result from the host cells response to infection may yield an avenue for non-invasive diagnostics and therapy of influenza and other viral infections. A case of sniffles: The composition of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in human breath changes under disease conditions, including viral infection. The VOC profiles upon infection with three influenza virus strains were assayed in a cell line. Diagnostic devices based on VOC analysis have enormous potential in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1040-1048
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 5 2014


  • breath analysis
  • esters
  • gas chromatography
  • influenza
  • mass spectrometry
  • volatile organic compounds


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