Thimerosal positivities: The role of SH groups and divalent ions

B. Santucci, C. Cannistraci, A. Cristaudo, E. Camera, M. Picardo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For a better understanding of the mechanistic details of the interactions of organomercury compounds inside the skin, 32 subjects who previously had given positive patch-test reactions to thimerosal (TH) and negative reactions to thiosalicylic acid, were divided into 2 groups. 16 subjects were repatch tested to ethylmercury chloride (EtHgCl) and to solutions containing EtHgCl mixed with L-cysteine and glutathione, respectively. The remaining 16 were repatch tested to EtHgCl and to solutions containing EtHgCl mixed with chlorides of Zn, Mg, and Mn, respectively. The results showed that whilst L-cysteine, glutathione and ZnCl2 were able to abolish or to reduce the positive reactions to EtHgCl, chlorides of Mg and Mn were unable to do so. Patch tests revealed that in causing positive reactions to TH, EtHg probably interacted with thiol groups and with Zn ions, as in biological systems when causing toxic effects. The limited number of TH reactions in the general population, the constant presence of concomitant positive reactions to EtHgCl and MeHgCl, and the lack of cross-reactivity with other organic or inorganic mercury compounds, lead us to speculate that reactions to TH are due to organomercury alkyl compounds, and that positive subjects have a constitutively reduced capability to metabolize organomercury compounds, rather than to reveal previous exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-126
Number of pages4
JournalContact Dermatitis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Chemical basis
  • Divalent ions
  • Ethylmercury chloride
  • Organomercury alkyl compounds
  • SH-groups
  • Thimerosal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Toxicology
  • Immunology


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