Food and chemical toxicology : an international journal published for the British Industrial Biological Research Association

Polyhexamethyleneguanidine phosphate induces severe lung inflammation, fibrosis, and thymic atrophy.

PMID 24769016


Polyhexamethyleneguanidine phosphate (PHMG-P) has been widely used as a disinfectant because of its strong bactericidal activity and low toxicity. However, in 2011, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ministry of Health and Welfare reported that a suspicious outbreak of pulmonary disease might have originated from humidifier disinfectants. The purpose of this study was to assess the toxicity of PHMG-P following direct exposure to the lung. PHMG-P (0.3, 0.9, or 1.5 mg/kg) was instilled into the lungs of mice. The levels of proinflammatory markers and fibrotic markers were quantified in lung tissues and flow cytometry was used to evaluate T cell distribution in the thymus. Administration of PHMG-P induced proinflammatory cytokines elevation and infiltration of immune cells into the lungs. Histopathological analysis revealed a dose-dependent exacerbation of both inflammation and pulmonary fibrosis on day 14. PHMG-P also decreased the total cell number and the CD4(+)/CD8(+) cell ratio in the thymus, with the histopathological examination indicating severe reduction of cortex and medulla. The mRNA levels of biomarkers associated with T cell development also decreased markedly. These findings suggest that exposure of lung tissue to PHMG-P leads to pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis as well as thymic atrophy.