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Autoimmune Diseases
Volume 2014, Article ID 325461, 12 pages
Research Article

Mercury, Autoimmunity, and Environmental Factors on Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Lands

1College of Pharmacy, Community Environmental Health Program, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, 905 Vassar NE, Albuquerque, NM 87106, USA
2School of Medicine, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
3Department of Natural Resources, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, P.O. Box 590, East Highway 212, Eagle Butte, SD 57625, USA
4Missouri Breaks Industries Research, Inc., Hc 64 Box 52, Timber Lake, SD 57656, USA
5INOVA Diagnostics, Inc., 9900 Old Grove Road, San Diego, CA 92131, USA
6Black Hills Center for American Indian Health, 701 St. Joseph Street, Suite 204, Rapid City, SD 57701, USA
7Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA

Received 7 November 2013; Accepted 17 February 2014; Published 24 April 2014

Academic Editor: Aristo Vojdani

Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Ong et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Mercury (Hg), shown to induce autoimmune disease in rodents, is a ubiquitous toxicant throughout Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) lands. CRST members may be exposed to Hg through fish consumption (FC), an important component of native culture that may supplement household subsistence. Our goals were to ascertain whether total blood Hg levels (THg) reflect Hg exposure through FC and smoking, and determine whether THg is associated with the presence of anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) and specific autoantibodies (sAuAb). We recruited 75 participants who regularly consume fish from CRST waters. Hg exposure through FC and smoking were assessed via questionnaires. Whole blood samples were collected from participants, and THg was measured using ICP-MS. ANA and sAuAb in serum were modeled using demographic and exposure information as predictors. Female gender, age, and FC were significant predictors of THg and sAuAb; self-reported smoking was not. 31% of participants tested positive for ANA ≥ 2+. Although ANA was not significantly associated with Hg, the interactions of gender with Hg and proximity to arsenic deposits were statistically significant . FC resulted in a detectable body burden of Hg, but THg alone did not correlate with the presence of ANA or sAuAb in this population.