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Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: a descriptive study.

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Thiomersal is a preservative containing small amounts of ethylmercury that is used in routine vaccines for infants and children. The effect of vaccines containing thiomersal on concentrations of mercury in infants' blood has not been extensively assessed, and the metabolism of ethylmercury in infants is unknown. We aimed to measure concentrations of mercury in blood, urine, and stools of infants who received such vaccines.

METHODS

40 full-term infants aged 6 months and younger were given vaccines that contained thiomersal (diptheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine, and in some children Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine). 21 control infants received thiomersal-free vaccines. We obtained samples of blood, urine, and stools 3-28 days after vaccination. Total mercury (organic and inorganic) in the samples was measured by cold vapour atomic absorption.

FINDINGS

Mean mercury doses in infants exposed to thiomersal were 45.6 microg (range 37.5-62.5) for 2-month-olds and 111.3 microg (range 87.5-175.0) for 6-month-olds. Blood mercury in thiomersal-exposed 2-month-olds ranged from less than 3.75 to 20.55 nmol/L (parts per billion); in 6-month-olds all values were lower than 7.50 nmol/L. Only one of 15 blood samples from controls contained quantifiable mercury. Concentrations of mercury were low in urine after vaccination but were high in stools of thiomersal-exposed 2-month-olds (mean 82 ng/g dry weight) and in 6-month-olds (mean 58 ng/g dry weight). Estimated blood half-life of ethylmercury was 7 days (95% CI 4-10 days).

INTERPRETATION

Administration of vaccines containing thiomersal does not seem to raise blood concentrations of mercury above safe values in infants. Ethylmercury seems to be eliminated from blood rapidly via the stools after parenteral administration of thiomersal in vaccines.

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  • Authors+Show Affiliations

    ,

    Department of Microbiology/Immunology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, NY, USA. michael_pichichero@urmc.rochester.edu

    , ,

    Source

    Lancet (London, England) 360:9347 2002 Nov 30 pg 1737-41

    MeSH

    Case-Control Studies
    Hair
    Half-Life
    Humans
    Infant
    Mercury
    Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
    Thimerosal
    Vaccines

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

    Language

    eng

    PubMed ID

    12480426

    Citation

    Pichichero, Michael E., et al. "Mercury Concentrations and Metabolism in Infants Receiving Vaccines Containing Thiomersal: a Descriptive Study." Lancet (London, England), vol. 360, no. 9347, 2002, pp. 1737-41.
    Pichichero ME, Cernichiari E, Lopreiato J, et al. Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: a descriptive study. Lancet. 2002;360(9347):1737-41.
    Pichichero, M. E., Cernichiari, E., Lopreiato, J., & Treanor, J. (2002). Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: a descriptive study. Lancet (London, England), 360(9347), pp. 1737-41.
    Pichichero ME, et al. Mercury Concentrations and Metabolism in Infants Receiving Vaccines Containing Thiomersal: a Descriptive Study. Lancet. 2002 Nov 30;360(9347):1737-41. PubMed PMID: 12480426.
    * Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
    TY - JOUR T1 - Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: a descriptive study. AU - Pichichero,Michael E, AU - Cernichiari,Elsa, AU - Lopreiato,Joseph, AU - Treanor,John, PY - 2002/12/14/pubmed PY - 2002/12/27/medline PY - 2002/12/14/entrez SP - 1737 EP - 41 JF - Lancet (London, England) JO - Lancet VL - 360 IS - 9347 N2 - BACKGROUND: Thiomersal is a preservative containing small amounts of ethylmercury that is used in routine vaccines for infants and children. The effect of vaccines containing thiomersal on concentrations of mercury in infants' blood has not been extensively assessed, and the metabolism of ethylmercury in infants is unknown. We aimed to measure concentrations of mercury in blood, urine, and stools of infants who received such vaccines. METHODS: 40 full-term infants aged 6 months and younger were given vaccines that contained thiomersal (diptheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine, hepatitis B vaccine, and in some children Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine). 21 control infants received thiomersal-free vaccines. We obtained samples of blood, urine, and stools 3-28 days after vaccination. Total mercury (organic and inorganic) in the samples was measured by cold vapour atomic absorption. FINDINGS: Mean mercury doses in infants exposed to thiomersal were 45.6 microg (range 37.5-62.5) for 2-month-olds and 111.3 microg (range 87.5-175.0) for 6-month-olds. Blood mercury in thiomersal-exposed 2-month-olds ranged from less than 3.75 to 20.55 nmol/L (parts per billion); in 6-month-olds all values were lower than 7.50 nmol/L. Only one of 15 blood samples from controls contained quantifiable mercury. Concentrations of mercury were low in urine after vaccination but were high in stools of thiomersal-exposed 2-month-olds (mean 82 ng/g dry weight) and in 6-month-olds (mean 58 ng/g dry weight). Estimated blood half-life of ethylmercury was 7 days (95% CI 4-10 days). INTERPRETATION: Administration of vaccines containing thiomersal does not seem to raise blood concentrations of mercury above safe values in infants. Ethylmercury seems to be eliminated from blood rapidly via the stools after parenteral administration of thiomersal in vaccines. SN - 0140-6736 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/12480426/Mercury_concentrations_and_metabolism_in_infants_receiving_vaccines_containing_thiomersal:_a_descriptive_study_ L2 - https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0140-6736(02)11682-5 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -