Germanium is used in the manufacture of electronic components. It has no known role in human nutrition.
Germanium in the form of “organic germanium” has been actively promoted to strengthen the immune system and to counter fatigue, and marketed through ‘health shops’. These preparations have been advocated for the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or post viral syndrome) allergies and HIV infection. There is no scientific evidence for beneficial effects in these conditions.
Long term use of germanium preparations may cause renal tubular damage, and a number of cases of renal failure and death have been reported.
Laboratory Indices of exposure
There are few accounts of germanium metabolism and biochemistry but most reports refer to the use of urinary excretion and this parameter appears to be the most useful indicator of exposure.
Sanai T, Okuda S, Onoyama K, Oochi N, Oh Y, Kobayashi K, Shimamatsu K, Fujimi S, Fujishima M, Germanium dioxide-induced nephropathy: A new type of renal disease. Nephron 1990; 54: 53-60
Krapf R, Schaffner T, Iten PX. Abuse of germanium associated with fatal lactic acidosis. Nephron 1992; 62: 351-6