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

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Forensic evidence, such as stomach contents and whole blood of the victims, are usually collected and analyzed in order to confirm the cause of death. The toxicological detection of cyanide involves extraction and measurement of HCN from biological extracts. Blood or urine can be collected from the victim for laboratory analysis. Due to the relatively short half-life of cyanide (from minutes to hours depending on the matrix), toxicological detection of cyanide to confirm cyanide poisoning may only be feasible within the first few hours following exposure. Moreover, the volatility and reactivity of cyanide leaves direct measurements highly susceptible to errors introduced during the sample collection and separation step.

Cyanide levels in blood samples taken at autopsy the next day have been reported to decrease by approximately 79 percent. Postmortem formation of cyanide may also occur and complicate the interpretation of cyanide results. Therefore, the presence of cyanide becomes less feasible when the detection window is passed or the victims' body has been damaged by fire or advanced decomposition. The detection of stable biomarkers of cyanide is needed to extend the time in which cyanide exposure can be reliably assayed in a post mortem examination.

A recent study found that a biomarker, ACTA (2-aminothiazoline-4-carboxylic acid), was found significantly increased in liver samples following a sub-lethal dose of cyanide. The laboratory continues to work on ATCA's in vivo behavior and stability in order to explore the potential of using ATCA as a biomarker for cyanide poisoning. Future research may include looking for the presence of ACTA in the bones of victims with cyanide poisoning to extend detection methods even further.


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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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