Marlene is a Postdoctoral Scholar with the Woods Institute for the Environment. Her research uses environmental engineering, microbiology, and epidemiology to address complex issues in WASH and child health. She has 10 years of experience working on WASH topics in low and middle income countries and emergencies, especially in East Africa. During her PhD, she focused on the development of new approaches to assess exposure to emerging infectious challenges and interventions to interrupt transmission with a focus on handwashing. At Stanford, Marlene focuses on the relationship between WASH infrastructure in communities and institutions and disease risk in the local environment. Marlene did her doctoral training in Environmental Health at Tufts University, and holds an MSc in Epidemiology from the the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a BA in Human Biology from Stanford University.

Institute Affiliations

  • Member, Maternal & Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI)

Stanford Advisors

All Publications

  • Ruminant Fecal Contamination of Drinking Water Introduced Post-Collection in Rural Kenyan Households. International journal of environmental research and public health Hamzah, L., Boehm, A. B., Davis, J., Pickering, A. J., Wolfe, M., Mureithi, M., Harris, A. 2020; 17 (2)


    In sub-Saharan Africa, many families travel to collect water and store it in their homes for daily use, presenting an opportunity for the introduction of fecal contamination. One stored and one source water sample were each collected from 45 households in rural Kenya. All 90 samples were analyzed for fecal indicator bacteria (E. coli and enterococci) and species-specific contamination using molecular microbial source tracking assays. Human (HF183), avian (GFD), and ruminant (BacR) contamination were detected in 52, two, and four samples, respectively. Stored water samples had elevated enterococci concentrations (p < 0.01, Wilcoxon matched pairs test) and more frequent BacR detection (89% versus 27%, p < 0.01, McNemar's exact test) relative to source water samples. fsQCA (fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis) was conducted on the subset of households with no source water BacR contamination to highlight combinations of factors associated with the introduction of BacR contamination to stored water supplies. Three combinations were identified: (i) ruminants in the compound, safe water extraction methods, and long storage time, (ii) ruminants, unsafe water extraction methods, and no soap at the household handwashing station, and (iii) long storage time and no soap. This suggests that multiple pathways contribute to the transmission of ruminant fecal contamination in this context, which would have been missed if data were analyzed using standard regression techniques.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/ijerph17020608

    View details for PubMedID 31963600

  • Effects of single and integrated water, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition interventions on child soil-transmitted helminth and Giardia infections: A cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Kenya. PLoS medicine Pickering, A. J., Njenga, S. M., Steinbaum, L., Swarthout, J., Lin, A., Arnold, B. F., Stewart, C. P., Dentz, H. N., Mureithi, M., Chieng, B., Wolfe, M., Mahoney, R., Kihara, J., Byrd, K., Rao, G., Meerkerk, T., Cheruiyot, P., Papaiakovou, M., Pilotte, N., Williams, S. A., Colford, J. M., Null, C. 2019; 16 (6): e1002841


    BACKGROUND: Helminth and protozoan infections affect more than 1 billion children globally. Improving water quality, sanitation, handwashing, and nutrition could be more sustainable control strategies for parasite infections than mass drug administration, while providing other quality of life benefits.METHODS AND FINDINGS: We enrolled geographic clusters of pregnant women in rural western Kenya into a cluster-randomized controlled trial ( NCT01704105) that tested 6 interventions: water treatment, improved sanitation, handwashing with soap, combined water treatment, sanitation, and handwashing (WSH), improved nutrition, and combined WSH and nutrition (WSHN). We assessed intervention effects on parasite infections by measuring Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, hookworm, and Giardia duodenalis among children born to the enrolled pregnant women (index children) and their older siblings. After 2 years of intervention exposure, we collected stool specimens from 9,077 total children aged 2 to 15 years in 622 clusters, including 2,346 children in an active control group (received household visits but no interventions), 1,117 in the water treatment arm, 1,160 in the sanitation arm, 1,141 in the handwashing arm, 1,064 in the WSH arm, 1,072 in the nutrition arm, and 1,177 in the WSHN arm. In the control group, 23% of children were infected with A. lumbricoides, 1% with T. trichiura, 2% with hookworm, and 39% with G. duodenalis. The analysis included 4,928 index children (median age in years: 2) and 4,149 older siblings (median age in years: 5); study households had an average of 5 people, <10% had electricity access, and >90% had dirt floors. Compared to the control group, Ascaris infection prevalence was lower in the water treatment arm (prevalence ratio [PR]: 0.82 [95% CI 0.67, 1.00], p = 0.056), the WSH arm (PR: 0.78 [95% CI 0.63, 0.96], p = 0.021), and the WSHN arm (PR: 0.78 [95% CI 0.64, 0.96], p = 0.017). We did not observe differences in Ascaris infection prevalence between the control group and the arms with the individual interventions sanitation (PR: 0.89 [95% CI 0.73, 1.08], p = 0.228), handwashing (PR: 0.89 [95% CI 0.73, 1.09], p = 0.277), or nutrition (PR: 86 [95% CI 0.71, 1.05], p = 0.148). Integrating nutrition with WSH did not provide additional benefit. Trichuris and hookworm were rarely detected, resulting in imprecise effect estimates. No intervention reduced Giardia. Reanalysis of stool samples by quantitative polymerase chain reaction confirmed the reductions in Ascaris infections measured by microscopy in the WSH and WSHN groups. Trial limitations included imperfect uptake of targeted intervention behaviors, limited power to detect effects on rare parasite infections, and that it was not feasible to blind participants and sample collectors to treatment status. However, lab technicians and data analysts were blinded to treatment status. The trial was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development.CONCLUSIONS: Integration of improved water quality, sanitation, and handwashing could contribute to sustainable control strategies for Ascaris infections, particularly in similar settings with recent or ongoing deworming programs. Combining nutrition with WSH did not provide further benefits, and water treatment alone was similarly effective to integrated WSH. Our findings provide new evidence that drinking water should be given increased attention as a transmission pathway for Ascaris.TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT01704105.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pmed.1002841

    View details for PubMedID 31242190

  • Determining the Efficacy, Safety and Suitability of Disinfectants to Prevent Emerging Infectious Disease Transmission WATER Lantagne, D., Wolfe, M., Gallandat, K., Opryszko, M. 2018; 10 (10)

    View details for DOI 10.3390/w10101397

    View details for Web of Science ID 000451208400112

  • A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Association between Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Exposures and Cholera in Case-Control Studies AMERICAN JOURNAL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AND HYGIENE Wolfe, M., Kaur, M., Yates, T., Woodin, M., Lantagne, D. 2018; 99 (2): 534–45


    Case-control studies are conducted to identify cholera transmission routes. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) exposures can facilitate cholera transmission (risk factors) or interrupt transmission (protective factors). To our knowledge, the association between WASH exposures and cholera from case-control studies has not been systematically analyzed. A systematic review was completed to close this gap, including describing the theory of risk and protection, developing inclusion criteria, searching and selecting studies, assessing quality of evidence, and summarizing associations between cholera and seven predicted WASH protective factors and eight predicted WASH risk factors using meta-analysis and sensitivity analysis. Overall, 47 articles describing 51 individual studies from 30 countries met the inclusion criteria. All eight predicted risk factors were associated with higher odds of cholera (odds ratio [OR] = 1.9-5.6), with heterogeneity (I2) of 0-92%. Of the predicted protective factors, five of seven were associated with lower odds of cholera (OR = 0.35-1.4), with heterogeneity of 57-91%; exceptions were insignificant associations for improved water source (OR = 1.1, heterogeneity 91%) and improved sanitation (OR = 1.4, heterogeneity 68%). Results were robust; 3/70 (5%) associations changed directionality or significance in sensitivity analysis. Meta-analysis results highlight that predicted risk factors are associated with cholera; however, predicted protective factors are not as consistently protective. This variable protection is attributed to 1) cholera transmission via multiple routes and 2) WASH intervention implementation quality variation. Water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions should address multiple transmission routes and be well implemented, according to international guidance, to ensure that field effectiveness matches theoretical efficacy. In addition, future case-control studies should detail WASH characteristics to contextualize results.

    View details for DOI 10.4269/ajtmh.17-0897

    View details for Web of Science ID 000443682600052

    View details for PubMedID 29968551

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6090371

  • EFFECTS OF WATER, SANITATION, HANDWASHING, AND NUTRITIONAL INTERVENTIONS ON ENVIRONMENTAL ENTERIC DYSFUNCTION IN YOUNG CHILDREN: A CLUSTER-RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL IN RURAL KENYA Lin, A., Achando, B., Rao, G., Dentz, H., Arnold, B., Pickering, A., Stewart, C., Mertens, A., Alauddin, M., Nekesa, C., Buleti, J., Cheruiyot, P., Meerkerk, T., Arnold, C., Rahman, M., Wolfe, M., Mureithi, M., Byrd, K., Kiprotich, M., Nyambane, G., Njenga, S., Alauddin, S., Minchala, S., Cekovic, R., Williams, A., Mahoney, R., Hubbard, A., Dewey, K., Luby, S., Colford, J., Null, C. AMER SOC TROP MED & HYGIENE. 2018: 244–45
  • A Method to Test the Efficacy of Handwashing for the Removal of Emerging Infectious Pathogens JOVE-JOURNAL OF VISUALIZED EXPERIMENTS Wolfe, M. K., Lantagne, D. S. 2017


    Handwashing is widely recommended to prevent infectious disease transmission. However, little comparable evidence exists on the efficacy of handwashing methods in general. Additionally, little evidence exists comparing handwashing methods to determine which are most efficacious at removing infectious pathogens. Research is needed to provide evidence for the different approaches to handwashing that may be employed during infectious disease outbreaks. Here, a laboratory method to assess the efficacy of handwashing methods at removing microorganisms from hands and their persistence in rinse water is described. Volunteers' hands are first spiked with the test organism and then washed with each handwashing method of interest. Generally, surrogate microorganisms are used to protect human subjects from disease. The number of organisms remaining on volunteers' hands after washing is tested using a modified "glove juice" method: the hands are placed in gloves with an eluent and are scrubbed to suspend the microorganisms and make them available for analysis by membrane filtration (bacteria) or plaque assay (viruses/bacteriophages). Rinse water produced from the handwashing is directly collected for analysis. Handwashing efficacy is quantified by comparing the log reduction value between samples taken after handwashing to samples with no handwashing. Rinse water persistence is quantified by comparing rinse water samples from various handwashing methods to samples collected after handwashing with just water. While this method is limited by the need to use surrogate organisms to preserve the safety of human volunteers, it captures aspects of handwashing that are difficult to replicate in an in vitro study and fills research gaps on handwashing efficacy and the persistence of infectious organisms in rinse water.

    View details for DOI 10.3791/55604

    View details for Web of Science ID 000407448100025

    View details for PubMedID 28654076

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5608470

  • Surface Cleaning and Disinfection: Efficacy Assessment of Four Chlorine Types Using Escherichia coli and the Ebola Surrogate Phi6 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Gallandat, K., Wolfe, M. K., Lantagne, D. 2017; 51 (8): 4624–31


    In the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, international organizations provided conflicting recommendations for disinfecting surfaces contaminated by uncontrolled patient spills. We compared the efficacy of four chlorine solutions (sodium hypochlorite, sodium dichloroisocyanurate, high-test hypochlorite, and generated hypochlorite) for disinfection of three surface types (stainless steel, heavy-duty tarp, and nitrile) with and without pre-cleaning practices (prewiping, covering, or both) and soil load. The test organisms were Escherichia coli and the Ebola surrogate Phi6. All tests achieved a minimum of 5.9 and 3.1 log removal in E. coli and Phi6, respectively. A 15 min exposure to 0.5% chlorine was sufficient to ensure <8 Phi6 plaque-forming unit (PFU)/cm2 in all tests. While chlorine types were equally efficacious with and without soil load, variation was seen by surface type. Wiping did not increase disinfection efficacy and is not recommended because it generates infectious waste. Covering spills decreased disinfection efficacy against E. coli on heavy-duty tarp but does prevent splashing, which is critical in Ebola contexts. Our results support the recommendation of a 15 min exposure to 0.5% chlorine, independently of chlorine type, surface, pre-cleaning practices, and organic matter, as an efficacious measure to interrupt disease transmission from uncontrolled spills in Ebola outbreaks.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/acs.est.6b06014

    View details for Web of Science ID 000399859700053

    View details for PubMedID 28294602

  • Handwashing and Ebola virus disease outbreaks: A randomized comparison of soap, hand sanitizer, and 0.05% chlorine solutions on the inactivation and removal of model organisms Phi6 and E-coli from hands and persistence in rinse water PLOS ONE Wolfe, M. K., Gallandat, K., Daniels, K., Desmarais, A., Scheinman, P., Lantagne, D. 2017; 12 (2): e0172734


    To prevent Ebola transmission, frequent handwashing is recommended in Ebola Treatment Units and communities. However, little is known about which handwashing protocol is most efficacious. We evaluated six handwashing protocols (soap and water, alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS), and 0.05% sodium dichloroisocyanurate, high-test hypochlorite, and stabilized and non-stabilized sodium hypochlorite solutions) for 1) efficacy of handwashing on the removal and inactivation of non-pathogenic model organisms and, 2) persistence of organisms in rinse water. Model organisms E. coli and bacteriophage Phi6 were used to evaluate handwashing with and without organic load added to simulate bodily fluids. Hands were inoculated with test organisms, washed, and rinsed using a glove juice method to retrieve remaining organisms. Impact was estimated by comparing the log reduction in organisms after handwashing to the log reduction without handwashing. Rinse water was collected to test for persistence of organisms. Handwashing resulted in a 1.94-3.01 log reduction in E. coli concentration without, and 2.18-3.34 with, soil load; and a 2.44-3.06 log reduction in Phi6 without, and 2.71-3.69 with, soil load. HTH performed most consistently well, with significantly greater log reductions than other handwashing protocols in three models. However, the magnitude of handwashing efficacy differences was small, suggesting protocols are similarly efficacious. Rinse water demonstrated a 0.28-4.77 log reduction in remaining E. coli without, and 0.21-4.49 with, soil load and a 1.26-2.02 log reduction in Phi6 without, and 1.30-2.20 with, soil load. Chlorine resulted in significantly less persistence of E. coli in both conditions and Phi6 without soil load in rinse water (p<0.001). Thus, chlorine-based methods may offer a benefit of reducing persistence in rinse water. We recommend responders use the most practical handwashing method to ensure hand hygiene in Ebola contexts, considering the potential benefit of chlorine-based methods in rinse water persistence.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0172734

    View details for Web of Science ID 000394682400078

    View details for PubMedID 28231311

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5322913

  • Adapting and Evaluating a Rapid, Low-Cost Method to Enumerate Flies in the Household Setting. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene Wolfe, M. K., Dentz, H. N., Achando, B., Mureithi, M., Wolfe, T., Null, C., Pickering, A. J. 2017; 96 (2): 449-456


    Diarrhea is a leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age worldwide. Flies are important vectors of diarrheal pathogens in settings lacking networked sanitation services. There is no standardized method for measuring fly density in households; many methods are cumbersome and unvalidated. We adapted a rapid, low-cost fly enumeration technique previously developed for industrial settings, the Scudder fly grill, for field use in household settings. We evaluated its performance in comparison to a sticky tape fly trapping method at latrine and food preparation areas among households in rural Kenya. The grill method was more sensitive; it detected the presence of any flies at 80% (433/543) of sampling locations versus 64% (348/543) of locations by the sticky tape. We found poor concordance between the two methods, suggesting that standardizing protocols is important for comparison of fly densities between studies. Fly species identification was feasible with both methods; however, the sticky tape trap allowed for more nuanced identification. Both methods detected a greater presence of bottle flies near latrines compared with food preparation areas (P < 0.01). The grill method detected more flies at the food preparation area compared with near the latrine (P = 0.014) while the sticky tape method detected no difference. We recommend the Scudder grill as a sensitive fly enumeration tool that is rapid and low cost to implement.

    View details for DOI 10.4269/ajtmh.16-0162

    View details for PubMedID 27956654

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5303052

  • Seeking Clearer Recommendations for Hand Hygiene in Communities Facing Ebola: A Randomized Trial Investigating the Impact of Six Handwashing Methods on Skin Irritation and Dermatitis PLOS ONE Wolfe, M. K., Wells, E., Mitro, B., Desmarais, A., Scheinman, P., Lantagne, D. 2016; 11 (12)

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0167378

    View details for Web of Science ID 000391222000007

    View details for PubMedID 28030544

  • Accuracy, Precision, Ease-Of-Use, and Cost of Methods to Test Ebola-Relevant Chlorine Solutions PLOS ONE Wells, E., Wolfe, M. K., Murray, A., Lantagne, D. 2016; 11 (5): e0152442


    To prevent transmission in Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreaks, it is recommended to disinfect living things (hands and people) with 0.05% chlorine solution and non-living things (surfaces, personal protective equipment, dead bodies) with 0.5% chlorine solution. In the current West African EVD outbreak, these solutions (manufactured from calcium hypochlorite (HTH), sodium dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC), and sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl)) have been widely used in both Ebola Treatment Unit and community settings. To ensure solution quality, testing is necessary, however test method appropriateness for these Ebola-relevant concentrations has not previously been evaluated. We identified fourteen commercially-available methods to test Ebola-relevant chlorine solution concentrations, including two titration methods, four DPD dilution methods, and six test strips. We assessed these methods by: 1) determining accuracy and precision by measuring in quintuplicate five different 0.05% and 0.5% chlorine solutions manufactured from NaDCC, HTH, and NaOCl; 2) conducting volunteer testing to assess ease-of-use; and, 3) determining costs. Accuracy was greatest in titration methods (reference-12.4% error compared to reference method), then DPD dilution methods (2.4-19% error), then test strips (5.2-48% error); precision followed this same trend. Two methods had an accuracy of <10% error across all five chlorine solutions with good precision: Hach digital titration for 0.05% and 0.5% solutions (recommended for contexts with trained personnel and financial resources), and Serim test strips for 0.05% solutions (recommended for contexts where rapid, inexpensive, and low-training burden testing is needed). Measurement error from test methods not including pH adjustment varied significantly across the five chlorine solutions, which had pH values 5-11. Volunteers found test strip easiest and titration hardest; costs per 100 tests were $14-37 for test strips and $33-609 for titration. Given the ease-of-use and cost benefits of test strips, we recommend further development of test strips robust to pH variation and appropriate for Ebola-relevant chlorine solution concentrations.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0152442

    View details for Web of Science ID 000377146100001

    View details for PubMedID 27243817

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4887006

  • Shelf-Life of Chlorine Solutions Recommended in Ebola Virus Disease Response PLOS ONE Iqbal, Q., Lubeck-Schricker, M., Wells, E., Wolfe, M. K., Lantagne, D. 2016; 11 (5): e0156136


    In Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreaks, it is widely recommended to wash living things (handwashing) with 0.05% (500 mg/L) chlorine solution and non-living things (surfaces, personal protective equipment, dead bodies) with 0.5% (5,000 mg/L) chlorine solution. Chlorine solutions used in EVD response are primarily made from powdered calcium hypochlorite (HTH), granular sodium dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC), and liquid sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), and have a pH range of 5-11. Chlorine solutions degrade following a reaction highly dependent on, and unusually sensitive to, pH, temperature, and concentration. We determined the shelf-life of 0.05% and 0.5% chlorine solutions used in EVD response, including HTH, NaDCC, stabilized NaOCl, generated NaOCl, and neutralized NaOCl solutions. Solutions were stored for 30 days at 25, 30, and 35°C, and tested daily for chlorine concentration and pH. Maximum shelf-life was defined as days until initial concentration fell to <90% of initial concentration in ideal laboratory conditions. At 25-35°C, neutralized-NaOCl solutions (pH = 7) had a maximum shelf-life of a few hours, NaDCC solutions (pH = 6) 2 days, generated NaOCl solutions (pH = 9) 6 days, and HTH and stabilized NaOCl solutions (pH 9-11) >30 days. Models were developed for solutions with maximum shelf-lives between 1-30 days. Extrapolating to 40°C, the maximum predicted shelf-life for 0.05% and 0.5% NaDCC solutions were 0.38 and 0.82 hours, respectively; predicted shelf-life for 0.05% and 0.5% generated NaOCl solutions were >30 and 5.4 days, respectively. Each chlorine solution type offers advantages and disadvantages to responders, as: NaDCC is an easy-to-import high-concentration effervescent powder; HTH is similar, but forms a precipitate that may clog pipes; and, NaOCl solutions can be made locally, but are difficult to transport. We recommend responders chose the most appropriate source chlorine compound for their use, and ensure solutions are stored at appropriate temperatures and used or replaced before expiring.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0156136

    View details for Web of Science ID 000377146100016

    View details for PubMedID 27244552

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4887112

  • A Little CFTR Goes a Long Way: CFTR-Dependent Sweat Secretion from G551D and R117H-5T Cystic Fibrosis Subjects Taking Ivacaftor PLOS ONE Char, J. E., Wolfe, M. H., Cho, H., Park, I., Jeong, J. H., Frisbee, E., Dunn, C., Davies, Z., Milla, C., Moss, R. B., Thomas, E. A., Wine, J. J. 2014; 9 (2)


    To determine if oral dosing with the CFTR-potentiator ivacaftor (VX-770, Kalydeco) improves CFTR-dependent sweating in CF subjects carrying G551D or R117H-5T mutations, we optically measured sweat secretion from 32-143 individually identified glands in each of 8 CF subjects; 6 F508del/G551D, one G551D/R117H-5T, and one I507del/R117H-5T. Two subjects were tested only (-) ivacaftor, 3 only (+) ivacaftor and 3 (+/-) ivacaftor (1-5 tests per condition). The total number of gland measurements was 852 (-) ivacaftor and 906 (+) ivacaftor. A healthy control was tested 4 times (51 glands). For each gland we measured both CFTR-independent (M-sweat) and CFTR-dependent (C-sweat); C-sweat was stimulated with a β-adrenergic cocktail that elevated [cAMP]i while blocking muscarinic receptors. Absent ivacaftor, almost all CF glands produced M-sweat on all tests, but only 1/593 glands produced C-sweat (10 tests, 5 subjects). By contrast, 6/6 subjects (113/342 glands) produced C-sweat in the (+) ivacaftor condition, but with large inter-subject differences; 3-74% of glands responded with C/M sweat ratios 0.04%-2.57% of the average WT ratio of 0.265. Sweat volume losses cause proportionally larger underestimates of CFTR function at lower sweat rates. The losses were reduced by measuring C/M ratios in 12 glands from each subject that had the highest M-sweat rates. Remaining losses were estimated from single channel data and used to correct the C/M ratios, giving estimates of CFTR function (+) ivacaftor  = 1.6%-7.7% of the WT average. These estimates are in accord with single channel data and transcript analysis, and suggest that significant clinical benefit can be produced by low levels of CFTR function.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0088564

    View details for Web of Science ID 000331254600090

    View details for PubMedID 24520399

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3919757

  • In Vivo Readout of CFTR Function: Ratiometric Measurement of CFTR-Dependent Secretion by Individual, Identifiable Human Sweat Glands PLOS ONE Wine, J. J., Char, J. E., Chen, J., Cho, H., Dunn, C., Frisbee, E., Joo, N. S., Milla, C., Modlin, S. E., Park, I., Thomas, E. A., Tran, K. V., Verma, R., Wolfe, M. H. 2013; 8 (10)


    To assess CFTR function in vivo, we developed a bioassay that monitors and compares CFTR-dependent and CFTR-independent sweat secretion in parallel for multiple (∼50) individual, identified glands in each subject. Sweating was stimulated by intradermally injected agonists and quantified by optically measuring spherical sweat bubbles in an oil-layer that contained dispersed, water soluble dye particles that partitioned into the sweat bubbles, making them highly visible. CFTR-independent secretion (M-sweat) was stimulated with methacholine, which binds to muscarinic receptors and elevates cytosolic calcium. CFTR-dependent secretion (C-sweat) was stimulated with a β-adrenergic cocktail that elevates cytosolic cAMP while blocking muscarinic receptors. A C-sweat/M-sweat ratio was determined on a gland-by-gland basis to compensate for differences unrelated to CFTR function, such as gland size. The average ratio provides an approximately linear readout of CFTR function: the heterozygote ratio is ∼0.5 the control ratio and for CF subjects the ratio is zero. During assay development, we measured C/M ratios in 6 healthy controls, 4 CF heterozygotes, 18 CF subjects and 4 subjects with 'CFTR-related' conditions. The assay discriminated all groups clearly. It also revealed consistent differences in the C/M ratio among subjects within groups. We hypothesize that these differences reflect, at least in part, levels of CFTR expression, which are known to vary widely. When C-sweat rates become very low the C/M ratio also tended to decrease; we hypothesize that this nonlinearity reflects ductal fluid absorption. We also discovered that M-sweating potentiates the subsequent C-sweat response. We then used potentiation as a surrogate for drugs that can increase CFTR-dependent secretion. This bioassay provides an additional method for assessing CFTR function in vivo, and is well suited for within-subject tests of systemic, CFTR-directed therapeutics.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0077114

    View details for Web of Science ID 000326152300015

    View details for PubMedID 24204751

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3811985