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Forensic research extends detection of cyanide poisoning
Date:2/1/2012

Researchers have found a new biomarker for cyanide poisoning, which may extend its detection window in death investigations by weeks if not months.

Unless cyanide is discovered at the time of death on the mouth or nose, elevated cyanide concentrations can only be found for up to two days under current toxicological testing. A team of researchers have found a substance that appears in the liver following cyanide poisoning that could serve as a stable biomarker for a longer period of time. The research, by Dr. Ilona Petrikovics, David Thompson, Sarah Martin, Prashanth Jayanna, and Jorn Yu of Sam Houston State University; Gary Rockwood of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense; and Brian Logue of South Dakota State University, was recently published in two journals, Biomarkers and Analytical Methods.

Cyanide exposures commonly originate from smoke inhalation or direct exposure to either cyanide salt or hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and occur in military, firefighting, industrial and forensic settings. In fact, the study is an byproduct of research to find a antidote for those exposed to cyanide from a bioterrorism attack.

In the investigation of deaths, a bitter almond odor emanating from the victim and the presence of pink lividity during postmortem examination are two common indicators of acute cyanide poisoning. Alkali burns of the gastrointestinal tract often can be observed during autopsy in cases where cyanide salts have been ingested.

Since cyanide salts are solid crystalline, their presence in a crime scene or in the areas near victim's nose or mouth can be easily discovered, collected and preserved for further forensic testing. In cases where no suspicious substances are observed in the scene of the death, the presence of cyanide in the victim's body can be confirmed chemically using a colorimetric test, followed by a laboratory analysis using a gas chromatographymass spectrometry (GC
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Contact: Beth Kuhles
kuhles@shsu.edu
936-294-4425
Sam Houston State University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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