HealthDay News — The mercury found in some seafood may be linked to autoimmune disorders among female patients of childbearing age, results of a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives indicate.

“A large number of cases are not explained by genetics,”  Emily Somers, PhD, of the University of Michigan Medical and Public Health Schools in Ann Arbor, said in a university news release.

“So we believe studying environmental factors will help us understand why autoimmunity happens and how we may be able to intervene to improve health outcomes.”

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To examine associations between mercury biomarkers and antinuclear antibody (ANA) positive and titer strength, the investigators examined cross-sectional associations between mercury and ANAs in female patients aged 16 to 49 years (n=1,352).

The higher the exposure to mercury, the higher the level of autoantibodies, found the researchers. “In our study, exposure to mercury stood out as the main risk factor for autoimmunity,” said Somers.

“The presence of autoantibodies doesn’t necessarily mean they will lead to an autoimmune disease,” Somers noted. The presence of autoantibodies, however, is a significant predictor of future autoimmune disease and may predate the symptoms and diagnosis of an autoimmune disease by years.

“For women of childbearing age, who are at particular risk of developing this type of disease, it may be especially important to keep track of seafood consumption.”


  1. Somers E et al. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2015; doi: