The toxicity of soluble metal compounds is often different from that of the parent metal. Since no reliable data on acute toxicity, local effects, and mutagenicity of beryllium metal have ever been generated, beryllium metal powder was tested according to the respective Organisation for Economical Co-Operation and Development (OECD) guidelines. Acute oral toxicity of beryllium metal was investigated in rats and local effects on skin and eye in rabbits. Skin-sensitizing properties were investigated in guinea pigs (maximization method). Basic knowledge about systemic bioavailability is important for the design of genotoxicity tests on poorly soluble substances. Therefore, it was necessary to experimentally compare the capacities of beryllium chloride and beryllium metal to form ions under simulated human lung conditions. Solubility of beryllium metal in artificial lung fluid was low, while solubility in artificial lysosomal fluid was moderate. Beryllium chloride dissolution kinetics were largely different, and thus, metal extracts were used in the in vitro genotoxicity tests. Genotoxicity was investigated in vitro in a bacterial reverse mutagenicity assay, a mammalian cell gene mutation assay, a mammalian cell chromosome aberration assay, and an unscheduled DNA synthesis (UDS) assay. In addition, cell transformation was tested in a Syrian hamster embryo cell assay, and potential inhibition of DNA repair was tested by modification of the UDS assay. Beryllium metal was found not to be mutagenic or clastogenic based on the experimental in vitro results. Furthermore, treatment with beryllium metal extracts did not induce DNA repair synthesis, indicative of no DNA-damaging potential of beryllium metal. A cell-transforming potential and a tendency to inhibit DNA repair when the cell is severely damaged by an external stimulus were observed. Beryllium metal was also found not to be a skin or eye irritant, not to be a skin sensitizer, and not to have relevant acute oral toxic properties.
acute toxicity; beryllium; genotoxicity; mutagenicity; sensitization; solubility
A fatal case of pulmonary berylliosis in a 42 year old male is described. The patient was exposed to beryllium while working in a chemical plant over a 9 year period, and presented two years after ceasing such employment. The berylliosis was diagnosed on open lung biopsy in 1971. The patient was commenced on steriod therapy at that time. He suffered progressive dyspnoea from severe restrictive lung disease over the next 14 years. A chest X-ray of June 1985 revealed a lesion in the left upper lobe suggestive of a mycetoma. Before any therapy could be instituted he suffered a massive haemoptysis and died. Post-mortem examination revealed two large mycetomata in the right and left upper lobes. Parenchymal histology showed evidence of chronic inflammation with non-caseating granulomata and the cavity wall showed localized invasion by Aspergillus fumigatus. It is possible that the long term steroid therapy with multiple boosters of treatment may have contributed to the development of the mycetoma. This is the first case report known to the authors of a fatal aspergilloma in association with chronic berylliosis treated with steroids.
Beryllium, some of its alloys, and a variety of its compounds have induced malignant tumors of the lung and osteogenic sarcoma in experimental animals. Three animal species, monkeys, rabbits, and rats, have been shown to be susceptible. Beryllium induces morphological transformation in mammalian cells and enhances viral transformation of mammalian cells. It has been shown to decrease fidelity of DNA synthesis. It has been recognized that exposure to compounds of this metal will, in some individuals, result in a chronic granulomatous disease of the lung. A series of overlapping recent human epidemiological studies have been suggestive of an increase in the incidence of lung cancer in populations occupationally exposed to beryllium. Such studies, together with animal and in vitro studies, argue for the strong presumption of a carcinogenic hazard to man in occupational beryllium exposures.
With the advent of in vitro immunologic testing, we can now detect exposed individuals who are sensitized to beryllium and those who have chronic beryllium disease (CBD) with lung pathology and impairment. Earlier detection and more accurate diagnostic tools raise new questions about the natural history of sensitization and granulomatous disease. Preliminary data suggest that early detection identifies people who are sensitized to beryllium and that these individuals are at risk for progressing into clinical disease. This article discusses the historical, recent, and ongoing studies germane to our understanding of CBD natural history, including the immunologic and inflammatory basis of the disease, the environmental and host risk factors for disease progression, biological markers of disease severity and activity that may help predict outcome, and the implications for broad-based workplace screening to identify patients at the earliest stages of beryllium sensitization and disease.
Beryllium exposure in the workplace can result in chronic beryllium disease, a granulomatous lung disorder characterized by CD4+ T cell alveolitis and progressive lung fibrosis. A large number of the CD4+ T cells recruited to the lung in chronic beryllium disease recognize beryllium in an Ag-specific manner and express Th1-type cytokines following T cell activation. Beryllium-responsive CD4+ T cells in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) express an effector memory T cell phenotype and recognize beryllium in a CD28-independent manner. In this study, we show that the majority of beryllium-responsive CD4+ T cells in BAL have lost CD27 expression, whereas a subset of beryllium-responsive cells in blood retains expression of this costimulatory molecule. In addition, loss of CD27 on BAL CD4+ T cells inversely correlates with markers of lung inflammation. A small population of BAL CD4+ T cells retains CD27 expression, and these CD4+CD27+ T cells contain the FoxP3-expressing, naturally occurring regulatory T (Treg) cell subset. Coexpression of CD27 and CD25 identifies the majority of FoxP3-expressing Treg cells in blood and BAL, and these cells express potent suppressor function. Taken together, these findings suggest that CD27 is differentially expressed between effector T cells from the inflamed lung and can be used in conjunction with CD25 to isolate Treg cells and assess their functional capacity in an ongoing adaptive immune response in a target organ.
The increasing use of beryllium in a variety of industries continues to be a hazard. New cases are still being reported to the UK Beryllium Case Registry, now numbering 60 in the period 1945-1988. The majority of cases follow inhalation which results in acute beryllium disease (chemical pneumonitis) or more commonly chronic beryllium disease--a granulomatous pneumonitis. Granulomatous skin nodules also occur following local implantation. The clinical and radiological features are briefly described with the emphasis on pathology and immunology. Laser microprobe mass spectrometry analysis of tissue sections is a major advance in diagnosis. Detection of beryllium distinguishes the granulomas of chronic beryllium disease from other diseases, in particular sarcoidosis. The role of beryllium lymphocyte transformation tests is discussed. Chronic beryllium disease is steroid dependent and local excision of skin lesions appears to be curative. There is no evidence that beryllium is carcinogenic.
In contrast to naive T cells, reactivation of memory cells is less dependent on CD28-mediated costimulation. We have shown that circulating beryllium-specific CD4+ T cells from chronic beryllium disease patients remain CD28-dependent, while those present in the lung no longer require CD28 for T cell activation. In the present study, we analyzed whether other costimulatory molecules are essential for beryllium-induced T cell function in the lung. Enhanced proliferation of a beryllium-responsive, HLA-DP2-restricted T cell line was seen after the induction of 4-1BB ligand expression on the surface of HLA-DP2-expressing fibroblasts. Following beryllium exposure, CD4+ T cells from blood and bronchoalveolar lavage of chronic beryllium disease patients up-regulate 4-1BB expression, and the majority of beryllium-responsive, IFN-γ-producing CD4+ T cells in blood coexpress CD28 and 4-1BB. Conversely, a significant fraction of IFN-γ-producing bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) T cells express 4-1BB in the absence of CD28. In contrast to blood, inhibition of the 4-1BB ligand-4-1BB interaction partially blocked beryllium-induced proliferation of BAL CD4+ T cells, and a lack of 4-1BB expression on BAL T cells was associated with increased beryllium-induced cell death. Taken together, these findings suggest an important role of 4-1BB in the costimulation of beryllium-responsive CD4+ T cells in the target organ.
Beryllium was released into the air from routine operations and three accidental fires at the Rocky Flats Plant (RFP) in Colorado from 1958 to 1989. We evaluated environmental monitoring data and developed estimates of airborne concentrations and their uncertainties and calculated lifetime cancer risks and risks of chronic beryllium disease to hypothetical receptors. This article discusses exposure-response relationships for lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease. We assigned a distribution to cancer slope factor values based on the relative risk estimates from an occupational epidemiologic study used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine the slope factors. We used the regional atmospheric transport code for Hanford emission tracking atmospheric transport model for exposure calculations because it is particularly well suited for long-term annual-average dispersion estimates and it incorporates spatially varying meteorologic and environmental parameters. We accounted for model prediction uncertainty by using several multiplicative stochastic correction factors that accounted for uncertainty in the dispersion estimate, the meteorology, deposition, and plume depletion. We used Monte Carlo techniques to propagate model prediction uncertainty through to the final risk calculations. We developed nine exposure scenarios of hypothetical but typical residents of the RFP area to consider the lifestyle, time spent outdoors, location, age, and sex of people who may have been exposed. We determined geometric mean incremental lifetime cancer incidence risk estimates for beryllium inhalation for each scenario. The risk estimates were < 10(-6). Predicted air concentrations were well below the current reference concentration derived by the EPA for beryllium sensitization.
Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is caused by exposure to beryllium in the workplace, and it remains an important public health concern. Evidence suggests that CD4+ T cells play a critical role in the development of this disease. Using intracellular cytokine staining, we found that the frequency of beryllium-specific CD4+ T cells in the lungs (bronchoalveolar lavage) of 12 CBD patients ranged from 1.4% to 29% (mean 17.8%), and these T cells expressed a Th1-type phenotype in response to beryllium sulfate (BeSO4). Few, if any, beryllium-specific CD8+ T cells were identified. In contrast, the frequency of beryllium-responsive CD4+ T cells in the blood of these subjects ranged from undetectable to 1 in 500. No correlation was observed between the frequency of beryllium-responsive bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) CD4+ T cells as detected by intracellular staining and lymphocyte proliferation in culture after BeSO4 exposure. Staining for surface marker expression showed that nearly all BAL T cells exhibit an effector memory cell phenotype. These results demonstrate a dramatically high frequency and compartmentalization of antigen-specific effector memory CD4+ cells in the lungs of CBD patients. These studies provide insight into the phenotypic and functional characteristics of antigen-specific T cells invading other inaccessible target organs in human disease.
Beryllium exposure can lead to the development of beryllium-specific CD4+ T cells and chronic beryllium disease (CBD), which is characterized by the presence of lung granulomas and a CD4+ T cell alveolitis. Studies have documented the presence of proliferating and cytokine-secreting CD4+ T cells in blood of CBD patients after beryllium stimulation. However, some patients were noted to have cytokine-secreting CD4+ T cells in blood in the absence of beryllium-induced proliferation, and overall, the correlation between the 2 types of responses was poor. We hypothesized that the relative proportion of memory T cell subsets determined antigen-specific proliferation. In most CBD patients, the majority of beryllium-specific CD4+ T cells in blood expressed an effector memory T cell maturation phenotype. However, the ability of blood cells to proliferate in the presence of beryllium strongly correlated with the fraction expressing a central memory T cell phenotype. In addition, we found a direct correlation between the percentage of beryllium-specific CD4+ TEM cells in blood and T cell lymphocytosis in the lung. Together, these findings indicate that the functional capability of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells is determined by the relative proportion of memory T cell subsets, which may reflect internal organ involvement.
OBJECTIVES—Gemstone cutters are potentially exposed to various carcinogenic and fibrogenic metals such as chromium, nickel, aluminium, and beryllium, as well as to lead. Increased beryllium concentrations had been reported in the air of workplaces of beryl cutters in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. The aim of the survey was to study the excretion of beryllium in cutters and grinders with occupational exposure to beryls—for example, aquamarines and emeralds—to examine the prevalence of beryllium sensitisation with the beryllium lymphocyte transformation test (BeLT), to examine the prevalence of lung disease induced by beryllium, to describe the internal load of the respective metals relative to work process, and to screen for genotoxic effects in this particular profession.
METHODS—In a cross sectional investigation, 57 out of 100 gemstone cutters working in 12 factories in Idar-Oberstein with occupational exposure to beryls underwent medical examinations, a chest radiograph, lung function testing (spirometry, airway resistance with the interrupter technique), and biological monitoring, including measurements of aluminium, chromium, and nickel in urine as well as lead in blood. Beryllium in urine was measured with a newly developed direct electrothermal atomic absorption spectroscopy technique with a measurement limit of 0.06 µg/l. Also, cytogenetic tests (rates of micronuclei and sister chromatid exchange), and a BeLT were performed. Airborne concentrations of beryllium were measured in three factories. As no adequate local control group was available, the cutters were categorised into those with an exposure to beryls of >4 hours/week (group A) and ⩽4 hours/week (group B).
RESULTS—Clinical, radiological, or spirometric abnormalities indicating pneumoconiosis were detected in none of the gemstone cutters. Metal concentrations in biological material were far below the respective biological limit values, and beryllium in urine was only measurable in subjects of group A. Cytogenetic investigations showed normal values which were independent of the duration of beryllium exposure. In one subject, the BeLT was positive. Beryllium stimulation indices were significantly higher in subjects with detectable beryllium in the urine than in those with beryllium concentrations below the detection limit (p<0.05). In one factory, two out of four measurements of airborne beryllium concentrations were well above the German threshold limit value of 2 µg/m3 (twofold and 10-fold), and all gemstone cutters working in this factory had measurable beryllium concentrations in urine.
CONCLUSION—No adverse clinical health effects were found in this cross sectional investigation of gemstone cutters working with beryls. However, an improvement in workplace hygiene is recommended, accompanied by biological monitoring of beryllium in urine.
Keywords: gemstone cutter; beryllium in urine; lymphocyte transformation test
Chronic beryllium disease is an occupational lung disease that begins as a cell-mediated immune response to beryllium. Although respiratory and engineering controls have significantly decreased occupational beryllium exposures over the last decade, the rate of beryllium sensitization has not declined. We hypothesized that skin exposure to beryllium particles would provide an alternative route for sensitization to this metal. We employed optical scanning laser confocal microscopy and size-selected fluorospheres to demonstrate that 0.5- and 1.0- micro m particles, in conjunction with motion, as at the wrist, penetrate the stratum corneum of human skin and reach the epidermis and, occasionally, the dermis. The cutaneous immune response to chemical sensitizers is initiated in the skin, matures in the local lymph node (LN), and releases hapten-specific T cells into the peripheral blood. Topical application of beryllium to C3H mice generated beryllium-specific sensitization that was documented by peripheral blood and LN beryllium lymphocyte proliferation tests (BeLPT) and by changes in LN T-cell activation markers, increased expression of CD44, and decreased CD62L. In a sensitization-challenge treatment paradigm, epicutaneous beryllium increased murine ear thickness following chemical challenge. These data are consistent with development of a hapten-specific, cell-mediated immune response following topical application of beryllium and suggest a mechanistic link between the persistent rate of beryllium worker sensitization and skin exposure to fine and ultrafine beryllium particles.
The inhalation of beryllium causes a serious lung disease characterised by pronounced radiographic and functional impairments and occurs in workers engaged in the extraction and manufacture of the metal. This paper describes the beryllium exposure levels and refining processes in a large beryllium factory operating since the 1930s. Lifetime beryllium exposure histories were estimated for the 309 workers present at a health survey conducted in 1977. Beryllium exposure levels in the plant were high for many years, with some estimated exposure levels in excess of 100 micrograms/m3. As late as 1975, there were exposures to beryllium above 10 micrograms/m3 in some jobs. After about 1977, the plant was in compliance with the permissible exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms/m3. The median cumulative exposure in this cohort was 65 micrograms/m3-years and the median duration of exposure was 17 years. From these data a series of exposure parameters, functions of the exposure histories that characterise biologically important dimensions of exposure were calculated for each worker.
Beryllium is a lightweight metal with unique qualities related to stiffness, corrosion resistance, and conductivity. While there are many useful applications, researchers in the 1930s and l940s linked beryllium exposure to a progressive occupational lung disease. Acute beryllium disease is a pulmonary irritant response to high exposure levels, whereas chronic beryllium disease (CBD) typically results from a hypersensitivity response to lower exposure levels. A blood test, the beryllium lymphocyte proliferation test (BeLPT), was an important advance in identifying individuals who are sensitized to beryllium (BeS) and thus at risk for developing CBD. While there is no true “gold standard” for BeS, basic epidemiologic concepts have been used to advance our understanding of the different screening algorithms.
beryllium; BeLPT; beryllium sensitization; BeS; screening; chronic beryllium disease; CBD
Activation of the K-ras protooncogene and inactivation of the p53 tumor suppressor gene are events common to many types of human cancers. Molecular epidemiology studies have associated mutational profiles in these genes with specific exposures. The purpose of this paper is to review investigations that have examined the role of the K-ras and p53 genes in lung tumors induced in the F344 rat by mutagenic and nonmutagenic exposures. Mutation profiles within the K-ras and p53 genes, if present in rat lung tumors, would help to define some of the molecular mechanisms underlying cancer induction by various environmental agents. Pulmonary adenocarcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas were induced by tetranitromethane (TNM), 4-methylnitrosamino-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), beryllium metal, plutonium-239, X-ray, diesel exhaust, or carbon black. These agents were chosen because the tumors they produced could arise via different types of DNA damage. Mutation of the K-ras gene was determined by approaches that included DNA transfection, direct sequencing, mismatch hybridization, and restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. The frequency for mutation of the K-ras gene was exposure dependent. Only two agents, TNM and plutonium, led to mutation frequencies of > 10%. In both cases, the transition mutations formed could have been derived from deamination of cytosine. The identification of non-ras transforming genes in rat lung tumors induced by mutagenic and nonmutagenic exposures such as NNK and beryllium would help define some of the mechanisms underlying cancer induction by different types of DNA damage. Alteration in the p53 gene was assessed by immunohistochemical analysis for p53 protein and single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis of exons 4 to 9. None of the 93 adenocarcinomas examined was immunoreactive toward the anti-p53 antibody CM1. In contrast, 14 to 71 squamous cell carcinomas exhibited nuclear p53 immunoreactivity with no correlation to type of exposure. However, SSCP analysis only detected mutations in 2 of 14 squamous cell tumors that were immunoreactive, suggesting that protein stabilization did not stem from mutations within the p53 gene. Thus, the p53 gene does not appear to be involved in the genesis of most rat lung tumors.
A chronic progressive granulomatous disease of the lungs is described in a female chemist who worked for about two years with a beryllium compound in the manufacture of fluorescent lighting tubes. The level of beryllium in the laboratory atmosphere was found to be 2·7 μg. per cu.m. and in other parts of the factory up to 39·1 μg. per cu.m. were recorded. Symptoms began about two years after she left this work and she died three years later. A diagnosis of chronic pulmonary berylliosis was made, and confirmation was obtained by lung biopsy when early in the course of the disease a large cyst attached to the right middle lobe was removed by thoracotomy. Tests of lung function showed that there was a low arterial saturation at rest and a normal Pco2 in spite of marked hyperventilation. Both elastance and resistance of the lungs were greater than normal and total work of breathing was six times the normal. Pregnancy was associated with relief of symptoms which persisted for some months after a normal birth. Death occurred about seven years after exposure to beryllium ceased. At necropsy beryllium was detected in the lungs chemically and demonstrated in histological sections by special stains. Microscopic examination of the lung showed conchoidal bodies and doubly refractile crystals and the pathogenesis of these lesions is discussed. It is suggested that there is a sensitivity reaction to beryllium, which is probably combined with protein to form an antigen, and that the breakdown of necrotic foci provokes a further reaction in the lung with the repeated appearance of fresh lesions.
A glycolipid (J001X) isolated from the membrane proteoglycans of a non-pathogenic strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae was developed to bind selectively to macrophages. A scintigraphic technique could thus be developed and applied to an experimental model of lung berylliosis. Six baboons were injected intratracheally with a beryllium metal suspension. Three to 24 months later, they were submitted to both an anatomical and a functional respiratory evaluation. Two baboons were explored at the early stage of alveolitis and four baboons at a more advanced stage characterised by a granulomatous disorder. Scintigraphy was performed using J001X labelled with 99mtechnetium administered as an aerosol. In the six baboons, conventional imaging techniques (chest x ray film, computed tomography scan, gallium scintigraphy), failed to show either any lung abnormality or mediastinal lymph nodes consistent with beryllium disease. In the two recently contaminated baboons, J001X scintigraphy showed a well defined parenchymal fixation facing the contaminated lobe. In the four baboons who were at a more advanced stage of berylliosis, J001X fixation was always focused paratracheally without any significant involvement of the lung parenchyma. The subcarinal and laterotracheal lymph nodes seen at necropsy corresponded to J001X scintigraphic fixations. In conclusion, when compared with conventional techniques such as chest x ray film, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, and gallium scintigraphy, J001X scintigraphy has proved its ability to detect occult lesions in experimental berylliosis in baboons. By comparison with gallium scintigraphy, scintigraphy with J001X appears to have superior sensitivity and can be performed in four hours.
An accumulation of lipid material was observed in the alveolar macrophages of animals treated per os with an inhibitor of cholesterol biosynthesis (trans-1, 4-bis) (2-dichlorobenzyl-aminomethyl) cyclohexane dihydrochloride: AY-9944). This lipid is probably 7-dehydro-cholesterol which is a precursor of cholesterol and accumulates in various organs, especially in the lungs. In the rats and pigs the reaction is limited to the alveolar macrophages which are expectorated or degenerate. In dogs some of the alveolar macrophages are also expectorated while others continue to collect a cholesterol-like lipid until large crystals form, which provoke the formation of giant cells and later fibrocytes, giving rise to “cholesterol granulomata”.
Chronic beryllium disease is predominantly a pulmonary granulomatosis that was originally described in 1946. Symptoms usually include dyspnea and cough. Fever, anorexia, and weight loss are common. Skin lesions are the most common extrathoracic manifestation. Granulomatous hepatitis, hypercalcemia, and kidney stones can also occur. Radiographic and physiologic abnormalities are similar to those in sarcoidosis. While traditionally the pathologic changes included granulomas and cellular interstitial changes, the hallmark of the disease today is the well-formed granuloma. Immunologic studies have demonstrated a cell-mediated response to beryllium that is due to an accumulation of CD4+ T cells at the site of disease activity. Diagnosis depends on the demonstration of pathologic changes (i.e., granuloma) and evidence that the granuloma was caused by a hypersensitivity to beryllium (i.e., positive lung proliferative response to beryllium). Using these criteria, the diagnosis of chronic beryllium disease can now be made before the onset of clinical symptoms. Whether, with early diagnosis, the natural course of this condition will be the same as when it was traditionally diagnosed is not known. Currently, corticosteroids are used to treat patients with significant symptoms or evidence of progressive disease.
Occupational exposure to beryllium may cause Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD), a lung disorder initiated by an electrostatic interaction with the MHC class II human leukocyte antigen (HLA). Molecular studies have found a significant correlation between the electrostatic potential at the HLA-DP surface and disease susceptibility. CBD can therefore be treated by chelation therapy. In this work, we studied the effect of two complexing agents, nitrilotriproprionic acid (NTP) and 4,5-dihydroxy-1,3-benzene disulphonate (Tiron), on the fractionation of beryllium in human serum analysed by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS).
We found the average serum beryllium concentration of fourteen non-exposed individuals to be 0.53 (± 0.14) μg l-1, with 21 (± 3)% of the beryllium mass bound to the low molecular weight fraction (LMW), and 79 (± 3)% bound to the high molecular weight fraction (HMW). The addition of Tiron increased the beryllium mass in the HMW fraction, while NTP was not seen to have any influence on the fractionation of beryllium between the two fractions. NTP was, however, shown to complex 94.5% of the Be mass in the LMW fraction. The beryllium GFAAS detection limit, calculated as three times the standard deviation of 10 replicates of the lowest standard (0.05 μg L-1), was 6.0 (± 0.2) ng L-1.
The concentration of beryllium or its fractionation in human serum was not affected by sex or smoking habit. On average, three quarters of the beryllium in serum were found in the HMW fraction. Of the two ligands tested, only Tiron was effective in mobilising beryllium under physiological conditions, thus increasing the Be content in the HMW fraction.
Two cases of lung granulomata associated with "crescentic" glomerulonephritis both in a clinical setting of polyarteritis nodosa were treated with high doses of intravenous methylprednisolone ("pulse therapy") in single injections of 30 mg/kg body-weight. In the first case rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis with 100% crescents was arrested and followed by improvement of renal function from a creatinine clearance of 5 ml/min to 30 ml/min; in the second case multiple lung granulomata of 8 months' standing, unresponsive to oral steroids, disappeared 8 days after treatment with high dosage intravenous methylprednisolone. The use of "pulse therapy" with methylprednisolone is advocated, not only in such cases where arteritis is known or suspected, but also in radidly progressive glomerulonephritis associated with crescents.
This report is based on 30 deaths from chronic beryllium disease (CBD) in the United Kingdom with details of 19 autopsies. The majority were fluorescent lamp workers and machinists who died from respiratory failure. There were no cases of lung cancer. The survival times ranged from less than 1 to 29 years and was longest in machinists. All of the workers showed interstitial pulmonary fibrosis with varying degrees of cystic change. The majority showed hyalinized, and a few active sarcoid-type, granulomas. Extrathoracic granulomas, as in a U.K. sarcoid autopsy series, were rare. A notable difference was the absence of myocardial involvement in CBD compared to an incidence of 20% in the sarcoid autopsies. The detection of beryllium in the criteria for diagnosis is emphasized and the cases classified as definite include 12 of 19 positive analysis, 6 of 19, negative or unavailable analysis. The remaining case was classified as dubious because, despite a positive analysis, granulomas were absent. The main differential diagnosis is sarcoidosis.
Rationale: Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) is a CD4+ T cell–mediated disorder characterized by persistent lung inflammation. Naturally occurring regulatory T (Treg) cells modulate adaptive immune responses. The role of this T-cell subset in beryllium-induced lung disease is unknown.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine whether dysfunctional Treg cells in the lung contribute to the “unchecked” inflammatory response that characterizes CBD.
Methods: Using blood and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells from normal control subjects and individuals with beryllium-induced disease, we determined the frequency and function of naturally occurring Treg cells.
Measurements and Main Results: A significantly decreased percentage and expression of FoxP3 in BAL CD4+ T cells from CBD patients compared with beryllium-sensitized subjects was seen, and the percentage of FoxP3-expressing CD4+ Treg cells in BAL inversely correlated with disease severity. In contrast to blood Treg cells derived from beryllium-sensitized subjects and patients with CBD that completely suppressed blood responder T-cell proliferation, BAL FoxP3-expressing Treg cells from patients with CBD are unable to suppress anti–CD3-mediated BAL T-cell proliferation. Mixing studies showed that blood Treg cells are capable of suppressing autologous BAL responder T cells. Conversely, BAL CD4+ Treg cells are incapable of suppressing blood T cells, confirming that the failure of BAL Treg cells to suppress T-cell proliferation is caused by a dysfunctional Treg cell subset and not by resistance of BAL effector T cells to suppression.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that the deficient and dysfunctional Treg cells in the lung of patients with CBD contribute to the persistent inflammatory response in this disease.
fibrosis; human; granuloma; inflammation
Chronic beryllium disease (CBD) begins as a sensitizing cell-mediated immune response to beryllium antigen that progresses to granulomatous lung disease. Previous studies demonstrated the involvement of proinflammatory cytokines in the disease process, but the pattern and regulation of cytokine release is unknown. Using bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells from CBD patients in short-term tissue culture, we evaluated cytokine protein levels by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and T-lymphocyte proliferation by tritiated thymidine incorporation. We observed the beryllium-stimulated release of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-2 (IL-2), and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) but not interleukin-4 (IL-4). Beryllium-stimulated IFN-gamma release was sustained to 168 hr in culture, whereas IL-2 concentrations returned to baseline after 24 hr. Neutralization of IL-2 decreased beryllium-stimulated T-lymphocyte proliferation, but the level of proliferation remained elevated in comparison to unstimulated BAL cells. These data suggest that T helper 1 (Th1) lymphocytes participate in the beryllium disease process; that IFN-gamma levels remain elevated after IL-2 levels return to baseline; and that IL-2 participates directly in beryllium-stimulated T-cell proliferation, but other T-lymphocyte mitogenic cytokines may be involved.
ABSTRACT The relationship of features of beryllium disease to the estimated exposure to beryllium has been investigated over a 30-year period at a factory manufacturing beryllium products. The factory opened in 1952. Of the 146 men who had worked there for more than six months up to 1963, 89% were seen at that time and were followed up in 1973. The nine who continued to work in the factory and those who were engaged subsequently were examined in 1977. On each occasion a clinical interview, occupational history, chest radiograph, and assessment of lung function were carried out. The findings of the main survey were related to the beryllium content of the dust measured by mass spectrometry for 1952-60 when over 3000 determinations were made. In no part of the plant did the estimated average daily exposure exceed 2 μg m-3, and only 9% of individual determinations exceeded this level. Twenty determinations exceeded 25 μg m-3. During the period under review, four men developed the clinical, radiographic, and physiological features of beryllium disease. Two men acquired abnormal chest radiographs consistent with beryllium disease but without other features, and one developed probable beryllium disease despite the diagnosis not being confirmed at necropsy. The affected men were all exposed to beryllium oxide or hydroxide but in a wide range of estimated doses. In six the changes developed after exposure had ceased; trigger factors including patch testing may have contributed to their illness. Seventeen men recalled episodes of brief exposure to high concentrations of dust, two developed pneumonitis from which they recovered completely, and one developed chronic beryllium disease after a further 23 years' exposure. In subjects without clinical or radiographic evidence of disease no convincing evidence was obtained for any association between the lung function and the estimated exposure to beryllium.