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Quantitative analysis of aconitine in body fluids in a case of aconitine poisoning


Aconitine belongs to the Aconitum alkaloids and is a natural toxic substance. Aconitine has been used as a traditional medicine in East Asian culture. Today, aconitine is still in use with or without a prescription, in the Republic of Korea. Here we present a case report of accidental death due to acute aconitine poisoning. An 81-year-old woman ingested liquid that had been heat extracted from the root of the Aconitum plant; she presented to the emergency room 1 h after ingestion. Her electrocardiogram showed irregular ventricular arrhythmias including ventricular tachycardia; she progressed to cardiac arrest. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and anti-arrhythmic drugs were administered, but the patient did not survive. An autopsy was performed 2 days postmortem. Toxicological analysis was performed, and aconitine was detected by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. The antemortem blood concentration of aconitine was 39.1 ng/ml and the concentrations of aconitine in the postmortem cardiac blood, peripheral blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), pericardial fluid, and urine were 21.1 ng/ml, 28.6 ng/ml, 6.8 ng/ml, 24.1 ng/ml, and 67.4 ng/ml, respectively. This is the first forensic case report of an aconitine poisoning death in the Republic of Korea with quantitative measurement of aconitine in the antemortem blood and various postmortem body fluids. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of the detection of aconitine in the CSF. These data about the distribution of aconitine in the antemortem blood and various postmortem body fluids is helpful for future aconitine poisoning death cases.

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This research was supported by the Ministry of Education and National Research Foundation of the Republic of Korea (NRF-2018R1D1A1B07049459). This study was funded by NRF-2018R1D1A1B07049459.

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Correspondence to Joo-Young Na.

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All authors declare that there was no conflict of interest.

This article does not contain any studies involving human participants or animals performed by the author. Moreover, this case report was based on medicolegal autopsy underwent with Court’s warrant requested by the public prosecutor.

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Cho, Y.S., Choi, HW., Chun, B.J. et al. Quantitative analysis of aconitine in body fluids in a case of aconitine poisoning. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 16, 330–334 (2020).

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  • Aconitine
  • Autopsy
  • Body fluids
  • Poisoning
  • Forensic pathology