Germanium Sesquioxide
Organic Germanium

Bis (2-Carboxyethylgermanium)sesquioxide

Bad Science Dies Hard

Good science is vital to progress and true learning. Contrastingly, sloppy science casts a shadow on even the most meticulous studies and leads to contradictions and confusion. Upon scrutiny, there is always a logical explanation for an apparent contradiction but once in the public domain it is nearly impossible to entirely remove the effects of bad science. The following are examples of sloppy science that have helped foster over-generalized concerns regarding the safety of all germanium containing compounds.

A report issued in 1987 by Okuda et al. damaged the reputation of germanium sesquioxide considerably. Two cases of renal compromise were attributed to germanium sesquioxide 14. The discussion section of this report suggested possible GeO2 contamination but still attributed the toxicity to germanium sesquioxide. The presence of GeO2 contamination in the Okuda et al. report was proven conclusively in a paper published the following year by Matsusaka. et al. 15. Two years later, Okuda revised his earlier position on germanium sesquioxide by demonstrating the safety of chronic high doses of germanium sesquioxide (240 mg/kg/day) and the toxic effects of GeO2 at 150 mg/kg/day 16.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. The original Okuda error of 1987 has been cited for nearly twenty years as the greatest evidence of germanium sesquioxide toxicity. In fact, it has been cited in so many articles that a false perception of a larger body of evidence against germanium sesquioxide resulted. Subsequent authors of scientific publications 30, 32, 34, 38, 39seem unaware that a correction was made in 1988 36 and that the subject of germanium sesquioxide toxicity was fully explored again in 1990 37. This was a simple mistake that the perpetrator attempted to correct. Imagine the impact of scientists who are unaware of or refuse to acknowledged their errors

1. Anger F, Anger JP, Guillou L, Papillon A. Subchronic oral toxicity (six months) of carboxyethylgermanium sesquioxide in rats. Applied Organometallic Chemistry 1992;6(3):267-72.

Analysis: This rat study was conducted with extremely high dosages of germanium sesquioxide (1,000 mg/kg/day) for six months produced no detectable toxic effects. The summary reports mild kidney dysfunction but this claim appears biased toward the negative perceptions of germanium sesquioxide. The data presented in table 3 of this paper, in fact, shows all kidney parameters to be normal and unchanged in spite of such a large dose.

2. Krapf R, Schaffner T, Iten PX. Abuse of germanium associated with fatal lactic acidosis. Nephron 1992;62:351-356.

Analysis:This paper reports a death associated with a high dosage of Ge-lac-cit (2g/day). Neither the title nor the abstract correctly distinguishes this as an inorganic form.

3. Luck BE, Mann H, Melzer H, Dunemann L, Begerow J. Renal and other organ failure caused by germanium intoxication. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation 1999(14):2464-2468.

Analysis: Once again the culprit in this study is the inorganic form of Ge-lac-cit in excess of 2 g/day . This is the same group who has incorrectly classified this form as “organic” on previous occasions. The general mention of germanium in the title implies a hazard associated with all germanium compounds.

4. Okada K, Okagawa K, Kawakami K, et al. Renal failure caused by long-term use of a germanium preparation as an elixir. Clinical Nephrology 1989;31:219-224.

Analysis:This report fails to place adequate emphasis on the fact that all three cases of renal failure were caused by high doses of an inorganic germanium form. The fact that no organic forms were ingested was determined with 13C-NMR. This information, however, is only mentioned deep within the text.

5. Omata M, Kikuchi M, Higuchi C, et al. Drug-induced nephropathy: Our recent clinical experience. In: Tanabe T, Hook JB, Endow H, eds. Nephrotoxicity of Antibiotics and Immunosuppressants. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., 1986: 15-20.

Analysis: This study mentions three cases of renal damage attributed to germanium but no effort is made to determine the form of germanium ingested.

6. Raisin J, Hess B, M. B, et al. Toxicity of an organic germanium compound: deleterious consequences of a "natural remedy". Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1992;122(1-2):11-13.

Analysis: This article incorrectly classifies Ge-lac-cit as an organic form thereby furthering the perception that organic forms are also hazardous.

7. Takeuchi A, Yoshizawa N, Oshima S, et al. Nephrotoxicity of germanium compounds: Report of a case and review of the literature. Nephron 1992;60:436-442.

Analysis: This review reports a single fatality attributed to germanium. The NMR data, however, suggests a mixture of several compounds. Admittedly the true composition was never determined

8. Taylor A, Dickson F, Dobrota M. Effects of germanium health supplements in the rat. Clinical Chemistry 1991;37(6):985.

Analysis: This study fails to establish whether the supplement ingested was in fact a pure form of germanium sesquioxide. The reported toxicity at low doses is more congruent with an inorganic form and it is clear from published literature that adulterated material has skewed test results in the past.

9. Van der Spoel JI, Sticker BHC, Esseveld MR, Schipper MEI. Dangers of dietary germanium supplements. The Lancet 1990;336:117.

Analysis:The very title of this letter strikes out at all germanium supplements. Nowhere is there a distinction between organic forms and the toxic inorganic form of Ge-lac-cit reported to cause the problem.

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References

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25. Taylor A, Dickson F, Dobrota M. Effects of germanium health supplements in the rat. Clinical Chemistry 1991;37(6):985.
26. Nagata N, Yoneyama T, Yanagida K. Accumulation of germanium in the tissues of a long-term user of germanium preparation dead of acute renal failure. J Toxicol Sci 1985;10:333-341.
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36. Fujita H, Kurono M, Toyoshima S. Effect of 3-oxygermylpropionic acid polymer (SK-818) on the incidence of spontaneous leukemia in AKR mice. Pharmacometrics 1990;39(4):389-395.
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