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Clin Biochem. 1998 Jun;31(4):195-220.

Nitrite and nitrate analyses: a clinical biochemistry perspective.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, ON, Canada.



To review the assays available for measurement of nitrite and nitrate ions in body fluids and their clinical applications.


Literature searches were done of Medline and Current Contents to November 1997.


The influence of dietary nitrite and nitrate on the concentrations of these ions in various body fluids is reviewed. An overview is presented of the metabolism of nitric oxide (which is converted to nitrite and nitrate). Methods for measurement of the ions are reviewed. Reference values are summarized and the changes reported in various clinical conditions. These include: infection, gastroenterological conditions, hypertension, renal and cardiac disease, inflammatory diseases, transplant rejection, diseases of the central nervous system, and others. Possible effects of environmental nitrite and nitrate on disease incidence are reviewed.


Most studies of changes in human disease have been descriptive. Diagnostic utility is limited because the concentrations in a significant proportion of affected individuals overlap with those in controls. Changes in concentration may also be caused by diet, outside the clinical investigational setting. The role of nitrite and nitrate assays (alongside direct measurements of nitric oxide in breath) may be restricted to the monitoring of disease progression, or response to therapy in individual patients or subgroups. Associations between disease incidence and drinking water nitrate content are controversial (except for methemoglobinemia in infants).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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