Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 7 Issue 3 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 3-Jan-2005 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 4-Jan-2005
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Beryllium sensitization progresses to chronic beryllium disease

In a clinical follow-up study lasting almost 5 years, researchers have shown that individuals who are beryllium sensitive progress to chronic beryllium disease at a rate of 6 to 8 percent per year.

Seventeen of 55 persons identified over 10-year period with beryllium sensitization who had had no evidence of chronic beryllium disease on initial lung biopsy showed diseased tissue on later clinical evaluations. The investigators found that 38 of the 55 remained beryllium sensitized after an average follow-up of 4.8 years. (Chronic beryllium disease is a lung inflammation caused by inhaling dust or fumes that contain beryllium. Beryllium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element that forms strong, hard alloys with several metals, including copper and nickel. Today, the metal is used in the aerospace industry and in the atomic energy and weapons industries.)

The researchers studied 55 individuals who showed beryllium sensitization during tests at their institution. Eighty percent were employed in the nuclear weapons field. On average, it had been almost 25 years since their first exposure to beryllium.

Beryllium sensitization was defined as beryllium-specific immune response demonstrated by two or more abnormal beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test results, with no evidence of nodular granulated tissue from a lung biopsy.

Chronic beryllium disease was defined as abnormal blood test results plus cell infiltrates in lung tissue from a biopsy. The investigators said that it would be important to monitor this cohort over future years in order to determine whether all individuals with beryllium sensitization would eventually develop granulomatous disease.

They also wanted to expand their follow-up to more recently identified sensitized individuals.

The study appears in the first issue for January 2005 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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