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Four chelating agents that have been used most commonly for the treatment of humans intoxicated with lead, mercury, arsenic or other heavy metals and metalloids are reviewed as to their advantages, disadvantages, metabolism and specificity. Of these, CaNa2EDTA and dimercaprol (British anti-lewisite, BAL) are becoming outmoded and can be expected to be replaced by meso-2,3-dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA, succimer) for treatment of lead intoxication and by the sodium salt of 2,3-dimercapto-1-propanesulfonic acid (DMPS, Dimaval) for treating lead, mercury or arsenic intoxication. Meso-2,3-DMSA and DMPS are biotransformed differently in humans. More than 90% of the DMSA excreted in the urine is found in the form of a mixed disulfide in which each of the sulfur atoms of DMSA is in disulfide linkage with an L-cysteine molecule. After DMPS administration, however, acyclic and cyclic disulfides of DMPS are found in the urine. The Dimaval-mercury challenge test holds great promise as a diagnostic test for mercury exposure, especially for low level mercurialism. Urinary mercury after Dimaval challenge may be a better biomarker of low level mercurialism than unchallenged urinary mercury excretion.


H V Aposhian, R M Maiorino, D Gonzalez-Ramirez, M Zuniga-Charles, Z Xu, K M Hurlbut, P Junco-Munoz, R C Dart, M M Aposhian. Mobilization of heavy metals by newer, therapeutically useful chelating agents. Toxicology. 1995 Mar 31;97(1-3):23-38

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PMID: 7716789

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