U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Chemical Senses, 2021, Vol 46, 1–8 doi:10.1093/chemse/bjab030


U.S. government work


Alterations of the volatile metabolome (the collection of volatiles present in secretions and other emanations) that occur in response to inflammation can be detected by conspecifics and chemometric analyses. Using a model system where mouse urinary metabolites are altered by treatment with lipopolysaccharide (found in the outer cell membrane of gram-negative bacteria), we hypothesized that alteration of body odor volatiles will vary according to the pathogen responsible for inducing the inflammation. We tested this hypothesis by treating mice with different immunogens that engage different immune signaling pathways. Results suggest that alterations of body odor volatiles resulting from inflammation do contain detailed information about the type of pathogen that instigated the inflammation and these differences are not merely dependent on the severity of the inflammatory event. These results are encouraging for the future of differential medical diagnosis of febrile diseases by analysis of the volatile metabolome. In particular, our data support the possibility that bacterial infections can be differentiated from viral infections such that antibiotic drug stewardship could be drastically improved by reducing unneeded treatments with antibiotics.