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J Appl Toxicol. 2006 Nov-Dec;26(6):536-9.

Comparison of organic and inorganic mercury distribution in suckling rat.

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Mineral Metabolism Unit, Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, Zagreb, Croatia.


Thiomersal is used as a preservative in vaccines given to small children. The metabolic product of thiomersal is ethylmercury and its distribution and kinetics are still not known, especially at this early age. The purpose of this study was to compare the body distribution of two forms of mercury: organic (thiomersal) and inorganic (mercury(2+) chloride) in very young, suckling rats. Mercury was applied subcutaneously three times during the suckling period on days 7, 9 and 11 of pups age, imitating the vaccination of infants. A single dose of mercury was equimolar in both exposed groups, i.e. 0.81 micromol Hg kg(-1). At 14 days of age the animals were killed and the total mercury analysed in blood and organs (kidney, liver and brain). The analytical method applied was total decomposition, amalgamation, atomic absorption spectrometry. The results showed that the level of mercury was higher in the liver and kidney of the inorganic mercury group than in the thiomersal exposed group. However, the brain and blood concentrations of mercury were higher in the thiomersal exposed group. These results need to be clarified by additional data on the kinetic pathways of ethylmercury compared with inorganic mercury.

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