Bismuth Subgallate Toxicity in the Age of Online Supplement Use

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Abstract

Introduction:

Bismuth salts have been used to treat gastroenterological disorders and are readily available over-the-counter and via the internet. Even though generally considered safe, bismuth compounds can cause a syndrome of subacute, progressive encephalopathy when taken in large quantities.

Case Report:

We present the case of woman who developed progressive encephalopathy, aphasia, myoclonus, and gait instability after chronically ingesting large amounts of bismuth subgallate purchased from a major online marketing website to control symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. After extensive neurological work-up, elevated bismuth levels in her blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid confirmed the diagnosis of bismuth-related neurotoxicity. She improved slowly following cessation of exposure.

Conclusion:

This case highlights bismuth subgallate as a neurotoxic bismuth formulation and reminds providers of the potential for safety misconceptions of positively reviewed online supplements.

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