Acute Liver Failure Induced by Joss Paper Ingestion

Med Case Rep (Wilmington). 2019;5(2):9. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


We present a case of liver failure secondary to ingestion of Joss paper. A 44-year-old female initially presented with fever, nausea and vomiting and was subsequently diagnosed with acute liver failure. Prior to presentation she had consumed 1.3 gram of acetaminophen and 800 mg of ibuprofen. Her acetaminophen level was 18 mcg/mL initially and on repeat check was <10 mcg/ml and all viral hepatology antibodies and antigens were negative. History revealed that the patient ingested a ceremonial paper, Joss paper, daily, which is typically painted with heavy metals. Her mercury level was subsequently found to be elevated to 12 ug/L. Mercury can cause depletion of glutathione (GSH) through production of reactive oxygen species. Acetaminophen metabolism requires sufficient GSH to bind to a reactive metabolite to prevent cell death and hepatic injury. Daily exposure to mercury present in the Joss paper, likely accumulated in our patient's body and allowed hepatic injury from even therapeutic doses of acetaminophen.

Keywords: Antibodies and Antigens; Liver Failure; Viral hepatology.