A glycolipid (J001X) isolated from the membrane proteoglycans of a non-pathogenic strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae was developed to bind selectively to macrophages. A scintigraphic technique could thus be developed and applied to an experimental model of lung berylliosis. Six baboons were injected intratracheally with a beryllium metal suspension. Three to 24 months later, they were submitted to both an anatomical and a functional respiratory evaluation. Two baboons were explored at the early stage of alveolitis and four baboons at a more advanced stage characterised by a granulomatous disorder. Scintigraphy was performed using J001X labelled with 99mtechnetium administered as an aerosol. In the six baboons, conventional imaging techniques (chest x ray film, computed tomography scan, gallium scintigraphy), failed to show either any lung abnormality or mediastinal lymph nodes consistent with beryllium disease. In the two recently contaminated baboons, J001X scintigraphy showed a well defined parenchymal fixation facing the contaminated lobe. In the four baboons who were at a more advanced stage of berylliosis, J001X fixation was always focused paratracheally without any significant involvement of the lung parenchyma. The subcarinal and laterotracheal lymph nodes seen at necropsy corresponded to J001X scintigraphic fixations. In conclusion, when compared with conventional techniques such as chest x ray film, computed tomography scan, magnetic resonance imaging, and gallium scintigraphy, J001X scintigraphy has proved its ability to detect occult lesions in experimental berylliosis in baboons. By comparison with gallium scintigraphy, scintigraphy with J001X appears to have superior sensitivity and can be performed in four hours.
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