The Authoritative Germanium Sesquioxide Resource

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Hazard assessment of germanium supplements. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1997 Jun;25(3):211-9.

Tao SH, Bolger PM.

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC 20204, USA.

Germanium-containing dietary supplements became popular in the 1970s in Japan and later in other countries, as elixirs for certain diseases (e.g., cancer and AIDS). Germanium is not an essential element. Its acute toxicity is low. However, at least 31 reported human cases linked prolonged intake of germanium products with renal failure and even death. Signs of kidney dysfunction, kidney tubular degeneration, and germanium accumulation were observed. Other adverse effects were anemia, muscle weakness, and peripheral neuropathy. Recovery of renal function is slow and incomplete even long after germanium intake was stopped. The total dose of ingested germanium (as dioxide, carboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide, germanium-lactate-citrate, or unspecified forms) varied from 15 to over 300 g; the exposure duration varied from 2 to 36 months. In laboratory animals, elevated germanium in tissues and impaired kidney and liver function were observed in a life-time drinking water (5 ppm germanium) study. Other toxicities associated with ingested germanium products in human cases were also demonstrated in animal studies with germanium dioxide and sometimes other germanium compounds. Based on the evidence of persistent renal toxicity associated with germanium dioxide, the lack of conclusive findings of differential nephrotoxicity of organic germanium compounds, and the possibility of contamination of the organic germanium products with inorganic germanium, it is clear that germanium products present a potential human health hazard.

Nephrotoxicity and neurotoxicity in humans from organogermanium compounds and germanium dioxide.
Biol Trace Elem Res. 1991 Jun;29(3):267-80.

Schauss AG.

Life Sciences Division, American Institute for Biosocial Research, Inc., Tacoma, WA 98401.

There is no known biological requirement for germanium (Ge), germanates, or any organogermanium compound. Ge deficiency has not been demonstrated in any animal. The estimated average dietary intake of Ge in humans is 1.5 mg/d. Ge is widely distributed in edible foods, all of which, with few exceptions, contain less than 5 ppm Ge, since higher levels are toxic to most plants. Ingestion of Ge compounds has been shown to produce toxic effects in experimental animals. In recent years inorganic germanium salts and novel organogermanium compounds, such as carboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide (Ge-132) and lactate-citrate-germanate (Ge lactate citrate) have been sold as "nutritional supplements" in some countries for their purported immunomodulatory effects or as health-producing elixirs, resulting in intakes of Ge significantly exceeding the estimated average dietary intake. Since 1982, there have been 18 reported cases of acute renal dysfunction or failure, including two deaths, linked to oral intake of Ge elixirs containing germanium dioxide (GeO2) or Ge-132. In these cases, biopsies show vacuolar degeneration in renal tubular epithelial cells, without proteinuria or hematuria, in the absence of glomerular changes. Serum creatinine levels have been well above 400 mumol/L in such patients. In 17 of 18 cases, accumulated elemental Ge intakes reportedly ranged between 16 to 328 g over a 4-36 mo period, or between 100 to 2000 times the average estimated dietary intake for human. In surviving patients, renal function improved after discontinuation of Ge supplementation. However, in no case was recovery complete. One organogermanium compound, an azaspiran organogermanium compound, 2-aza-8-germanspiro[4,5] decane-2-propamine-8,8-diethyl-N,N-dimethyl dichloride (spirogermanium), has been found to cause both neurotoxicity and pulmonary toxicity in phase I and II studies examining its chemotherapeutic potential as an antitumor drug in the treatment of various malignancies. In cancer patients given the drug spirogermanium, 40% experienced marked, yet transient neurotoxicity. Two patients suffered from pulmonary toxicity. Results of phases I and II human cancer trials for spirogermanium have not been favorable, with the exception of moderate benefits for three types of malignancies. It is recommended that patients exposed to long-term (greater than 3 mo) Ge supplementation at levels well above the estimated daily intake be medically supervised and monitored for potential renal-, pulmonary- or neurotoxicity. Further study regarding the mechanism of Ge-induced nephrotoxicity in human is warranted.

Nephrotoxicity in humans by the ultratrace element germanium. Ren Fail. 1991;13(1):1-4.

Schauss AG.

Life Sciences Division, American Institute for Biosocial Research, Inc., Tacoma, Washington 98401.

Acute renal failure (ARF) or renal dysfunction (RD) associated with germanium-induced nephrotoxicity has been reported in 18 patients since 1982. In 2 of these cases the patients died of acute renal and cardiogenic failure. In 17 of 18 cases biopsies showed vacuolar degeneration in renal tubular epithelial cells in the absence of glomerular changes, without proteinuria or hematuria. Accumulated elemental Ge intake in 17 patients over a period of 4 to 36 months ranged between 16 and 328 g, or more than 100 to 2000 times the average estimated dietary intake of Ge for man (1.5 mg/d; range 0.40 to 3.40 mg/d). The biological half-life of Ge is 4.5 days for kidneys, the highest retention level of any organ. The mean concentration of Ge in healthy adult kidneys is 9.0 mg/kg wet weight. In 3 patients studied with Ge-induced RD or ARF, urinary Ge excretion was 9, 15, and 60 ng/mL, compared to greater than 5 ng/mL in healthy controls, and remained elevated even 12 months after discontinuing supplemental Ge intake. The mechanism for Ge-induced nephrotoxicity remains unknown, although the suspected cause is the inorganic Ge salts, such as germanium dioxide. Sufficient evidence for a role of organogermanium compounds, such as carboxyethyl germanium sesquioxide or citrate-lactate germanate, in Ge-induced nephrotoxicity remains lacking. The recent introduction of over-the-counter Ge "nutritional" supplements in some countries increases the risk of additional cases of Ge-induced nephrotoxicity, especially if appreciable levels of inorganic Ge salts are present and consumed for long periods (greater than 3 months) at levels above the average daily estimated dietary intake for Ge.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)


Germanium dioxide-induced nephropathy: a new type of renal disease. Nephron. 1990;54(1):53-60.

Sanai T, Okuda S, Onoyama K, Oochi N, Oh Y, Kobayashi K, Shimamatsu K, Fujimi S, Fujishima M.

Second Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.

Chronic renal failure developed in 5 patients who were taking germanium dioxide (GeO2)-containing compounds. Renal functional deterioration was slow but progressive and dialysis treatment was necessitated temporarily in 2 patients. After the discontinuation of GeO2, the impaired renal function tended to improve but remained abnormal for an observation period of 10-40 months. The lack of proteinuria and hematuria was characterized as the clinical manifestations. Renal biopsy specimens revealed the tubular epithelial cell degeneration containing hematoxylin-positive fine granules on light microscopy, and electron-dense inclusions in the swollen mitochondria on electron microscopy. These findings localized mainly in distal segment of the tubules. In the rats given GeO2 orally for 10 weeks, similar histological lesions were evident, as manifested by marked weight loss, anemia, azotemia, and negative proteinuria. In the rats given carboxyethylgermanium sesquioxide, these changes were not observed and Ge concentration of kidney was significantly lower than in the rats given GeO2. The present study indicates that chronic GeO2 intake causes progressive renal dysfunction characterized by the degeneration of distal tubules.

Safety, Toxicity, Hazards, Physiology
Toxicity of an organic Germanium compound: deleterious consequences of a "natural remedy".  Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1992 Jan 8;122(1-2):11-3.

Raisin J, Hess B, Blatter M, Zimmermann A, Descoeudres C, Horber FF, Jaeger P.

Medizinische Universitatspoliklinik, Inselspital, Bern.

Reports mainly from Japan, recommend germanium (Ge)-containing compounds as "anti-cancer" and "immunostimulatory" remedies. We report on a 25-tear-old woman with stage II HIV disease who consumed a total of 47 g Ge as Ge-lactate-citrate 18%. She developed severe renal insufficiency (creatinine clearance 7 ml/min/1.73 m2, proteinuria 0.28 g/d) and hepatomegaly. Biopsies revealed tubulointerstitial nephropathy with vacuolar degeneration, mainly of distal tubular epithelia, and severe liver steatosis. Tissue Ge content in kidney and liver biopsy specimens was increased 68-and 140 fold respectively. In agreement with previous reports, renal dysfunction persisted 9 months later (creatinine clearance 11 ml/min/1.73 m2). PMID: 1594900 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Safety, Hazards, Physiology
Accumulation of germanium in the tissues of a long-term user of germanium preparation died of acute renal failure.  J Toxicol Sci. 1985 Nov;10(4):333-41.

Nagata N, Yoneyama T, Yanagida K, Ushio K, Yanagihara S, Matsubara O, Eishi Y.

Acute renal failure developed in a patient accompanied by systemic manifestations such as myopathy and skin rash. The patient, a middle aged house wife, had been taking 600 mg of germanium (Ge) preparation daily for 18 months as an elixir. The main component of the preparation was GeO2 and some organic compound was also present. Histological study of the kidney post mortem showed foamy cell transformation of glomerular epithelia, degeneration of tubular epithelia with red blood cell casts and urate crystals, and a mild proliferation of mesangial matrix. Analysis of the tissue content of Ge, prompted by her history, revealed an increased accumulation of the metal. As compared to a non-user died of liver cirrhosis, the concentration of the metal was higher particularly in the spleen (183X), thyroid gland (175X), psoas muscle (93X), jejunum (76X), and renal cortex (69X). So far, neither accumulation of Ge in humal tissue nor systemic toxicity of the Ge in human has been reported. The relevance of massive accumulation of Ge to the renal failure as well as to other systemic manifestations the patient presented remains to be clarified. PMID: 3831368 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Safety, Hazards, Physiology
Abuse of Germanium Associated With Fatal Lactic Acidosis

Nephron  1992; 62:351-356

Germanium compounds are marketed as nonprescription drugs in Europe and are recommended by the suppliers for AIDS and metastic cancer disease.  We observed a patient with nonmetastactic breast cancer who died because of severe lactic acidosis (plasma lactate concentration = 27 mmol /l) after ingestion of 25 g of elemental germanium over a 2-months period. Renal failure and hepatotoxicity had newly developed during germanium intake. Postmortem examination revealed severe hydropic vacuolation of tubule cells and the presence of inclusion bodies predominately in straight proximal tubule cells with normal appearance of renal interstitium and glomeruli. The liver showed panlobular steatosis.Urnine, blood and tissue (kidney, liver, muscle, pancreas) levels of germanium were high.  Lactic acidosis may have been caused by the combined, germanium-Induced renal and hepatic failure (underutilization), but it remains to be seen Whether germanium can affect lactate production and/or metabolism directly.

Safety, Hazards, Physiology
Tubulointerstitial nephropathy persisting 20 months after discontinuation of chronic intake of germanium lactate citrate. Am J Kidney Dis. 1993 May;21(5):548-52.

Hess B, Raisin J, Zimmermann A, Horber F, Bajo S, Wyttenbach A, Jaeger P.

Policlinic of Medicine, University Hospital, Berne, Switzerland.

Two young human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients, a 25-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man, consumed large amounts of germanium lactate citrate 18% as an "immunostimulant" for 9 months. The woman, who had stage II HIV infection, developed severe renal dysfunction (creatinine clearance, 7 mL/min/1.73 m2) and slight proteinuria (0.28 g/d) after ingesting 260 g germanium lactate citrate 18%. Hepatomegaly with liver dysfunction (SGOT, 102 U/L; gamma-glutamyl transferase (GT), 159 U/L) and lactic acidosis (plasma lactate, 7.3 mmol/L) developed simultaneously. Renal biopsy revealed tubulointerstitial nephropathy with vacuolar cell degeneration and periodic acid-Schiff-positive intracellular deposits mainly in distal tubules. Liver biopsy disclosed severe hepatic steatosis; liver function tests returned to normal within 5 weeks. Since renal failure persisted for 2 years after ingestion of germanium (creatinine clearance, 14 mL/min/1.73 m2; proteinuria, 0.84 g/d), a second renal biopsy was performed, which showed marked but focal distal tubular atrophy and slight interstitial fibrosis. The male patient, who had stage III HIV infection, had ingested the same compound; he presented with a creatinine clearance of 43 mL/min/m2 and proteinuria of 0.36 g/d. Renal biopsy disclosed tubulointerstitial changes similar to those found in the female patient. After 9 months off germanium, creatinine clearance remained unchanged. Neutron activation analysis of all biopsy specimens in both cases documented germanium concentrations 10 to 70 times normal in renal tissue and 140 times normal in liver tissue. PMID: 8488824 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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