Author(s): Davis LE, Kornfeld M, Mooney HS, Fiedler KJ, Haaland KY,
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Abstract For 3 months in 1969 a family in the United States that included a pregnant mother consumed pork containing methylmercury. Children, aged 20, 13, and 8 years and a neonate, developed severe neurological signs. Twenty-two years later, the 2 oldest had cortical blindness or constricted visual fields, diminished hand proprioception, choreoathetosis, and attentional deficits. Magnetic resonance images showed tissue loss in the calcarine and parietal cortices and cerebellar folia. The youngest had quadriplegia, blindness, and severe mental retardation until their deaths. The brain of the 8-year-old who died at age 30 showed cortical atrophy, neuronal loss, and gliosis, most pronounced in the paracentral and parietooccipital regions. The total mercury level in formalin-fixed, left occipital cortex was 1,974 ng/gm as measured by atomic absorption. Regional brain mercury levels correlated with extent of brain damage. A control patient had 38.5 ng of mercury/gm in the occipital cortex. Systemic organs in the patient and a control subject had comparable mercury levels. In mercury-intoxicated rats, we found that only 5 to 10\% of total brain mercury was lost by formalin fixation. Brain inorganic mercury in the patient ranged from 82 to 100\%. Since inorganic mercury crosses the blood-brain barrier poorly, biotransformation of methyl to inorganic mercury may have occurred after methylmercury crossed the blood-brain barrier, accounting for its persistence in brain and causing part of the brain damage.
This article was published in Ann Neurol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Case Reports