Volatile Metabolites in Lavage Fluid Are Correlated with Cytokine Production in a Valley Fever Murine Model

Emily A. Higgins Keppler, Marley C.Caballero Van Dyke, Heather L. Mead, Douglas F. Lake, D. Mitchell Magee, Bridget M. Barker, Heather D. Bean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii are soil-dwelling fungi of arid regions in North and South America that are responsible for Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis). Forty percent of patients with Valley fever exhibit symptoms ranging from mild, self-limiting respiratory infections to severe, life-threatening pneumonia that requires treatment. Misdiagnosis as bacterial pneumonia commonly occurs in symptomatic Valley fever cases, resulting in inappropriate treatment with antibiotics, increased medical costs, and delay in diagnosis. In this proof-of-concept study, we explored the feasibility of developing breath-based diagnostics for Valley fever using a murine lung infection model. To investigate potential volatile biomarkers of Valley fever that arise from host–pathogen interactions, we infected C57BL/6J mice with C. immitis RS (n = 6), C. posadasii Silveira (n = 6), or phosphate-buffered saline (n = 4) via intranasal inoculation. We measured fungal dissemination and collected bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) for cytokine profiling and for untargeted volatile metabolomics via solid-phase microextraction (SPME) and two-dimensional gas chromatography coupled with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC-TOFMS). We identified 36 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were significantly correlated (p < 0.05) with cytokine abundance. These 36 VOCs clustered mice by their cytokine production and were also able to separate mice with moderate-to-high cytokine production by infection strain. The data presented here show that Coccidioides and/or the host produce volatile metabolites that may yield biomarkers for a Valley fever breath test that can detect coccidioidal infection and provide clinically relevant information on primary pulmonary disease severity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • GC×GC
  • Valley fever
  • biomarkers
  • coccidioidomycosis
  • comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography
  • fungal pneumonia
  • mouse model
  • untargeted metabolomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science
  • Microbiology (medical)


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