Mercury-specific lymphocytes: An indication of mercury allergy in man
In this study, 18 patients with oral lichen planus (OLP), adjacent to amalgam fillings, were testedin vitro with an optimized lymphocyte proliferation test, MELISA (memory lymphocyte immunostimulation assay) and with a patch test. Twenty subjects with amalgam fillings but without oral discomfort and 12 amalgam-free subjects served as controls. The results show that patients with OLP have significantly higher lymphocyte reactivity to inorganic mercury, a corrosion product of amalgam, compared to control groups. Removal of amalgam fillings resulted in the disappearance of oral mucosal changes, thus indicating a causal relationship. Positive responses to phenylmercury (phenyl-Hg), a bactericidal agent in rootfillings and in pharmaceutical preparations, were also noted in the oral lichen group but not in the control groups. Thus, low-grade chronic exposure to mercury may induce a state of systemic sensitization as verified by Hg-specific lymphocyte reactivityin vitro.