Mercury poisoning

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  • i. Inorganic mercury is a product of paper manufacturing; organic mercury intoxication is caused by ingestion of food contaminated with organic mercury fungicide or fish
  • ii. Probably produces toxic effects by combining with sulfhydryl groups and interfering with protein synthesis (i.e. translation) which can especially be a problem during embryogenesis
    • 1. compare this mechanism of action with that of actinomycin which interferes with transcription causing axonal damage; Remember: Actin’ requires a script
  • iii. Acute mercury poisoning can produce hypersalivation, abdominal cramps, diarrhea along with tremor, ataxia, vertigo, nystagmus, blurred vision (or constricted visual fields) and sensory neuropathy
    • 1. chronic exposure can cause mental retardation, cortical blindness and quadriplegia
    • 2. ‘mad as a hatter’ disease (due to mercury used in felt hat dyes) – psychological dysfunction, tremor, movement disorder, peripheral neuropathy, cerebellar signs, GI dysfunction and renal tubular necrosis
  • iv. survivors of mercury poisoning have loss of small neurons particularly the granule cell layer of the cerebellum and the primary visual, auditory, and somatosensory regions of the cerebral cortex
    • 1. this is known as Hunter-Russel syndrome
  • v. treatment: penicillamine
  • vi. NOTE: BAL will increase mercury levels in the brain Remember: the Mercury Sa(BAL) translated well to the domestic car market increasing sales
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