Mesothelial cell and anti-nuclear autoantibodies associated with pleural abnormalities in an asbestos exposed population of Libby MT

Lucas S. Marchand, Sophie St-Hilaire, Elizabeth A. Putnam, Kinta M. Serve, Jean C. Pfau

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29 Scopus citations


Despite data linking amphibole asbestos exposure with production of autoantibodies, the role of autoantibodies in subsequent disease is unknown. Residents of Libby, Montana have experienced significant exposure to amphibole asbestos due to the mining of asbestos-contaminated vermiculite near the community over several decades. This population predominantly exhibits pleural disease, and an autoimmune-like disorder that has yet to be well defined. This study sought to determine whether autoantibodies from asbestos-exposed subjects were associated with pleural lesions. Serum samples of subjects from Libby were evaluated for anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) and mesothelial cell autoantibodies (MCAA) using cell based ELISA. The presence of radiographic abnormalities detected during the time frame of serum collection was determined from screening records. In accord with previous studies, 61.3% (76/124) of the Libby samples were ANA positive, a frequency much higher than expected for a healthy population. The odds of having pleural or interstitial abnormalities in Libby was nearly 3.55 times greater for individuals that tested positive for ANA compared with individuals negative for ANA (p= 0.004). MCAA were also detected at a strikingly high frequency (18.5%; 23/124) in samples from Libby. Individuals with MCAA had 4.9 times the risk of having pleural abnormalities compared to MCAA-negative subjects (p= 0.044). In conclusion, ANA and MCAA were elevated in a study population that was known to have chronic exposure to asbestos, and these autoantibodies were associated with pleural abnormalities, the predominant finding in the asbestos-exposed population of Libby. Additional research is needed to determine the role these autoantibodies may play in pulmonary disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-173
Number of pages6
JournalToxicology Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 25 2012


  • Amphibole
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Libby MT
  • Pleural


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