Urine mercury excretion following meso-dimercaptosuccinic acid challenge in fish eaters

Anne Michelle Ruha, Steven C. Curry, Richard D. Gerkin, Kathleen L. Caldwell, John D. Osterloh, Paul M. Wax

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Context.-Public awareness of methylmercury in fish has caused patients to seek testing for mercury poisoning. In some patients, the diagnosis of mercury poisoning has been made based on urine mercury excretions following oral dosing of meso-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA), a metal chelator. However, studies comparing urine mercury excretion following DMSA in healthy non-fish eaters with healthy fish eaters could not be located. Objectives.-To describe urinary mercury excretion before and after DMSA in healthy fish eaters and non-fish eaters, and to determine whether urine mercury excretion after DMSA would rise above baseline levels to a greater extent in fish eaters. Design.-A total of 24 healthy physicians were assigned to 1 of 3 groups based on fish consumption: non-fish eaters; 1 to 2 fish servings per week; and 3 or more servings per week. Blood mercury concentrations and 12-hour urine mercury and creatinine excretions were measured before and after oral ingestion of 30 mg of DMSA per kilogram of body weight. Results.-A total of 24 subjects completed the study, and 2 subsequently were excluded. No difference in baseline urinary mercury excretion was detected between groups. All groups demonstrated an increase in urinary mercury excretion following DMSA, which was higher in fish eaters (P = .04). Multiple linear regression found that the best predictor of a rise in urine mercury excretion following DMSA challenge was the prechelation blood mercury concentration. Conclusions.-In this study of healthy physicians, oral DMSA produced a rise in urine mercury excretion both in non-fish eaters and fish eaters. The increase in chelated mercury excretion was higher in fish eaters. A simple rise in chelated mercury excretion over baseline excretion is not a reliable diagnostic indicator of mercury poisoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-92
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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