DNA damage evaluated by the comet assay in lymphocytes of children with 137Cs internal contamination caused by the Chernobyl accident

Mutat Res. 2005 Jan 3;565(2):191-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2004.10.001.


The comet assay is one of the most versatile and popular tools for evaluating DNA damage. Its sensitivity to low dose radiation has been tested in vitro, but there are limited data showing its application and sensitivity in chronic exposure situations. The influence of the internal contamination caused by the Chernobyl accident on the level of DNA damage was evaluated by the comet assay on lymphocytes of 56 Ukrainian children. The study was performed during 2003 on children with demonstrable 137Cs internal contamination caused by food consumption. The children were selected for the study immediately after a 137Cs whole body counter measurement of internal contamination. The minimal detectable amount of 137Cs was 75 Bq. The control group included 29 children without detectable internal contamination, while in the exposed group 27 children with measured activity between 80 and 4037 Bq and committed effective dose between 54 and 3155 microSv were included. Blood samples were taken by a finger prick. The alkaline version of the comet assay was used, in combination with silver stained comets and arbitrary units (AU), for comet measurement. Factors such as disease, medical treatment, surface contamination of children's living location, etc., were considered in the study. Non-significant differences (p > 0.05) in DNA damage in control (9.0 +/- 5.7 AU) versus exposed (8.5 +/- 4.8 AU) groups were found. These results suggest that low doses of 137Cs internal contamination are not able to produce detectable DNA damage under the conditions used for the comet assay in this study. Further studies considering effects of high exposure should be performed on chronically exposed people using this assay.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cesium Radioisotopes / blood*
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Accident*
  • Child
  • Comet Assay / methods*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Female
  • Food Contamination, Radioactive
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes / physiology*
  • Lymphocytes / radiation effects*
  • Male


  • Cesium Radioisotopes