In adult guinea-pigs, beryllium induces either a skin sensitization or an immunological paralysis.

Skin delayed hypersensitivity results only from the contact of beryllium with the skin. Parenteral administration fails to sensitise, but may induce tolerance. These immune responses are associated with different forms of beryllium: immunogenic (bound to skin constituents) and tolerogenic (freely diffusible). The relative proportion of these fractions depends on the route of administration and on the salt of beryllium. The tolerant state is achieved either by intraperitoneal injection of a very low dose of beryllium (4·78 μg Be per kg intraperitoneally) or by intravenous injection of high toxic doses (400 μg Be per kg); this fits with the model described by Mitchison (1968) for protein antigens.


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