Association of Blast Exposure in Military Breaching with Intestinal Permeability Blood Biomarkers Associated with Leaky Gut

Qingkun Liu, Zhaoyu Wang, Shengnan Sun, Jeffrey Nemes, Lisa A. Brenner, Andrew Hoisington, Maciej Skotak, Christina R. LaValle, Yongchao Ge, Walter Carr, Fatemeh Haghighi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Injuries and subclinical effects from exposure to blasts are of significant concern in military operational settings, including tactical training, and are associated with self-reported concussion-like symptomology and physiological changes such as increased intestinal permeability (IP), which was investigated in this study. Time-series gene expression and IP biomarker data were generated from “breachers” exposed to controlled, low-level explosive blast during training. Samples from 30 male participants at pre-, post-, and follow-up blast exposure the next day were assayed via RNA-seq and ELISA. A battery of symptom data was also collected at each of these time points that acutely showed elevated symptom reporting related to headache, concentration, dizziness, and taking longer to think, dissipating ~16 h following blast exposure. Evidence for bacterial translocation into circulation following blast exposure was detected by significant stepwise increase in microbial diversity (measured via alpha-diversity p = 0.049). Alterations in levels of IP protein biomarkers (i.e., Zonulin, LBP, Claudin-3, I-FABP) assessed in a subset of these participants (n = 23) further evidenced blast exposure associates with IP. The observed symptom profile was consistent with mild traumatic brain injury and was further associated with changes in bacterial translocation and intestinal permeability, suggesting that IP may be linked to a decrease in cognitive functioning. These preliminary findings show for the first time within real-world military operational settings that exposures to blast can contribute to IP.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3549
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • blast
  • brain–gut axis
  • intestinal permeability
  • leaky gut
  • mTBI
  • microbiome
  • military


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