Case series: rheumatological manifestations attributed to exposure to Libby Asbestiform Amphiboles

Roger Diegel, Brad Black, Jean C. Pfau, Tracy McNew, Curtis Noonan, Raja Flores

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An increased risk for Systemic Autoimmune Diseases (SAID) has been reported in Libby, Montana, where extensive exposures to fibrous amphiboles occurred due to mining and use of asbestos-laden vermiculite. In addition, positive antinuclear autoantibody tests are associated with exposure to Libby Asbestiform Amphiboles (LAA) in both humans and mice. Among 6603 subjects who underwent health screening at the Center for Asbestos Related Diseases (CARD, Libby MT), 13.8% were diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, with prevalence values for the most common SAID being significantly higher than expected in the United States. Among the CARD screening population, serological and clinical profiles are diverse, representing symptoms and autoantibodies reflective of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and other rheumatic syndromes, including undifferentiated connective tissue disease (UCTD). Based upon screening of medical records by physicians with rheumatology expertise, the evolving nature of rheumatological disease in these patients is often atypical, with mixed diagnostic criteria and with a 1:1 male-to-female ratio. Through the Libby Epidemiology Research Program, cases were identified that illustrate clinical autoimmune outcomes with LAA exposure. Our goal was to better characterize SAID in Libby, MT in order to improve recognition of autoimmune outcomes associated with this exposure. In view of recent discoveries of widespread exposure to fibrous minerals in several areas of the U.S. and globally, it is critical to evaluate rheumatologic manifestations in other cohorts so that screening, surveillance, and diagnostic procedures are able to detect and recognize potential autoimmune outcomes of asbestos exposure. Abbreviations: ANA, antinuclear autoantibody; ARD, Asbestos-Related Diseases; ATSDR, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry; CARD, Center for Asbestos Related Diseases; CCP, Cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody; CREST, limited cutaneous form of scleroderma; CT, computed tomography; DIP, Distal Interphalangeal Joint; DLCO, Diffusing Capacity of the Lung for CO2; DMARD, Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs; ENA, Extractable Nuclear Antigen antibodies; FVC, Forced Vital Capacity; LAA, Libby Asbestiform Amphiboles; LERP, Libby Epidemiology Research Program; MCP, Metacarpal Phalangeal Joint; PIP, Proximal Interphalangeal Joint; PIP, rheumatoid arthritis; RV, Residual Volume; SAID, Systemic autoimmune diseases; SLE, systemic lupus erythematosus; SSc, Systemic Sclerosis; TLC, Total Lung Capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)734-747
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 3 2018


  • Asbestos
  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoimmune
  • Inhalation Toxicology


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