We evaluated the beryllium-specific lymphocyte transformation test as a workplace screening tool for early beryllium disease. Fifty-one of 58 workers with current beryllium exposure completed questionnaires and gave blood specimens for the lymphocyte transformation test. Six workers (11.8%) had elevated test results ranging from 5.7-fold to 16.7-fold stimulation. Of five who underwent clinical evaluation, four had beryllium disease, demonstrated by granulomata on transbronchial lung biopsy and elevated lymphocyte transformation tests by bronchoalveolar lavage cells (ranging from 18.6-fold to 44.3-fold stimulation). Our data show that (1) minimally symptomatic cases of beryllium disease can be identified by this peripheral blood test, (2) not all individuals with a positive peripheral blood lymphocyte transformation test have beryllium disease at the time of their initial evaluation, and (3) lymphocyte transformation test reproducibility is good, justifying further evaluation of this test for screening. We conclude that the peripheral blood lymphocyte transformation test may prove useful in preventing clinical chronic beryllium disease by early diagnosis in a subclinical phase.
©1989 The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine