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N-Acetylcysteine as an Antidote in Methylmercury Poisoning

Nazzareno Ballatori, Michael W. Lieberman and Wei Wang
Environmental Health Perspectives
Vol. 106, No. 5 (May, 1998), pp. 267-271
DOI: 10.2307/3434014
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3434014
Page Count: 5
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N-Acetylcysteine as an Antidote in Methylmercury Poisoning
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Abstract

Methylmercury is a ubiquitous environmental pollutant and a potent neurotoxin. Treatment of methylmercury poisoning relies almost exclusively on the use of chelating agents to accelerate excretion of the metal. The present study demonstrates that oral administration of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a widely available and largely nontoxic amino acid derivative, produces a profound acceleration of urinary methylmercury excretion in mice. Mice that received NAC in the drinking water (10 mg/ml) starting at 48 hr after methylmercury administration excreted from 47 to 54% of the 203 Hg in urine over the subsequent 48 hr, as compared to 4-10% excretion in control animals. When NAC-containing water was given from the time of methylmercury administration, it was even more effective at enhancing urinary methylmercury excretion and at lowering tissue mercury levels. In contrast, excretion of inorganic mercury was not affected by oral NAC administration. The ability of NAC to enhance methylmercury excretion when given orally, its relatively low toxicity, and its wide availability in the clinical setting indicate that it may be an ideal therapeutic agent for use in methylmercury poisoning.

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