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Allergology Review

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  Authority of Polish Society of Allergology

vol 4. no 3. September 1999  

 Original articles
Sensitization to thimerosal in various age groups
Marta Kieć-Świerczyńska, Dominika Świerczyńska-Machura, Grażyna Sławeta, Marek L. Kowalski

Antiviral vaccines may be a source of allergy to thimerosal (an organic mercury compound) since thimerosal is used to stabilize the vaccines. Catalet, a thimerosal-containing allergy vaccine is used in Poland to treat pollen-sensitive patients. The aim of the study was to assess the incidence of allergy to thimerosal in children, adults and students. The students suffered from pollen allergy and were receiving Catalet. In all subjects skin patch-tests were performed using standard panel of contact allergens and additionally with 0.05% thimerosal. Positive reactions to thimerosal were noted in 13 (8%) of 162 school children, and in 6 (2,6%) of 226 adults. As much as 33,8% students (22 of 65) treated with Catalet were hypersensitive to thimerosal. Positive reactions to thimerosal only were detected in 10 students (including 4 weakly positive reactions), one person was allergic to ethylmercuric chloride only, while 2 were sensitive to thimerosal and thiosalicylic acid. As much as 9 students were hypersensitive to methylmercuric chloride, ethylmercuric chloride and thimerosal; of these, 4 were sensitive also to thiosalicylic acid. There were no cross reactions to mercury metal and only 2 weakly positive reactions to mercury chloride. The majority of the patients did not show local reactions at the site of Catalet injections, with the exception of one female student, in whom a palm-size local oedema persisted for several hours following vaccination. Two of the desensitized patients reported erythematous spots and skin itching at the places of deodorant application. Our study demonstrated that sensitization to thimerosal is more prevalent among children as compared to adults who were not exposed to chronic treatment with vaccines containing thimerosal. Moreover, Catalet immunotherapy may be responsible for the allergy to thimerosal in atopic patients.


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