Segmental necrosis of small bronchi after prolonged intakes of Sauropus androgynus in Taiwan

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1998 Feb;157(2):594-8. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.157.2.9704040.


Since 1994 an endemic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has developed in Taiwan after a prevalent use of a body-weight-reducing vegetable, Sauropus androgynus (SA). All conventional treatments for COPD, including steroids and bronchodilators, had been ineffective. Studies of limited lung biopsy specimens from these patients revealed bronchiolitis obliterans. A few patients died, but many developed protracted chronic respiratory failure. Because of the chronic debilitation and ineffective conventional treatments, single lung transplants were performed as the last resort in four patients. The excised lungs revealed focal fibromuscular sclerosis and obliteration of bronchial arteries in the wall of large bronchi 4 to 5 mm in diameter with segmental necrosis of bronchi 2 to 4 mm in diameter. Bronchi immediately proximal to the necrotic zone showed fibrosis and atrophy of cartilage, bronchial glands, and smooth muscle cells; bronchioles immediately distal showed obstruction or dilatation. Most bronchi larger than 5 mm, pulmonary vessels, small bronchioles, and alveoli were little altered. The pathologic changes were most consistent with segmental ischemic necrosis of bronchi at the water-shed zone of bronchial and pulmonary circulation. The specific etiologic agent and detail of pathogenesis of this SA-related COPD needs further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchi / drug effects*
  • Bronchi / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / chemically induced
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Necrosis
  • Plant Extracts / poisoning*
  • Plant Poisoning / complications
  • Taiwan
  • Time Factors
  • Vegetables / chemistry*
  • Vegetables / poisoning
  • Weight Loss*


  • Plant Extracts