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Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy Demonstrates Retention of Beryllium in Chronic Beryllium Disease Granulomas

Sawyer, Richard T.; Abraham, Jerrold L.; Daniloff, Elaine; Newman, Lee S.

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2005 - Volume 47 - Issue 12 - p 1218-1226
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000184884.85325.36
Original Articles

Objective: We hypothesized that beryllium (Be) might persist in lung granulomas in patients with chronic beryllium disease (CBD).

Methods: A total of 33 Be-exposed ceramics workers underwent transbronchial biopsy. They were classified based on histopathology and Be-lymphocyte proliferation test as CBD or other categories. Lung tissue sections were analyzed using secondary ion mass spectroscopy.

Results: Be was detected in the lungs of all Be-exposed groups. Be levels were increased within the granulomas of patients with CBD compared with the Be levels outside granulomas. Notably, Be was detectable in the lungs of CBD patients who had ceased exposure to Be an average of 9 years previously.

Conclusions: Be was detected in the lungs of all Be-exposed subjects, with the highest levels of persistent Be inside CBD lung granulomas. Be antigen persistence may help explain the chronicity of this granulomatous disorder.

From the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Robert Hollis Laboratory of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Department of Medicine, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, Colorado (Dr Sawyer, Ms Daniloff, Dr Newman); Division of Pulmonary Science and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado (Dr Sawyer); Department of Pathology, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York (Dr Abraham); and Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, Colorado (Dr Newman).

Supported by National Institutes of Health grants RO1 ES-06538, PO1 ES11810, K08 HL03887, and MO1 RR00051.

Address correspondence to: Dr R. T. Sawyer, Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation, NIAID, NIH, DHHS, 6610 Rockledge Drive, Room 3103, Bethesda, MD 20892-6601; E-mail:

©2005The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine