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Nephron. 1992;62(3):351-6.

Abuse of germanium associated with fatal lactic acidosis.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Hospital of St. Gall, Switzerland.


Germanium compounds are marketed as nonprescription drugs in Europe and are recommended by the suppliers for AIDS and metastatic cancer disease. We observed a patient with nonmetastatic breast cancer who died because of severe lactic acidosis (plasma lactate concentration = 27 mmol/l) after ingestion of 25 g of elemental germanium over a 2-months period. Renal failure and hepatotoxicity had newly developed during germanium intake. Postmortem examination revealed severe hydropic vacuolation of tubule cells and the presence of inclusion bodies predominantly in straight proximal tubule cells with normal appearance of renal interstitium and glomeruli. The liver showed panlobular steatosis. Urine, blood and tissue (kidney, liver, muscle, pancreas) levels of germanium were high. Lactic acidosis may have been caused by the combined, germanium-induced renal and hepatic failure (underutilization), but it remains to be seen whether germanium can affect lactate production and/or metabolism directly.

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