Journal Article

Hidden Aconite Poisoning: Identification of Yunaconitine and Related Aconitum Alkaloids in Urine by Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry

Chi-Kong Lai, Wing-Tat Poon and Yan-Wo Chan

in Journal of Analytical Toxicology

Volume 30, issue 7, pages 426-433
Published in print September 2006 | ISSN: 0146-4760
Published online September 2006 | e-ISSN: 1945-2403 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jat/30.7.426
Hidden Aconite Poisoning: Identification of Yunaconitine and Related Aconitum Alkaloids in Urine by Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry

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Poisoning from aconite occurs worldwide as a result of misuse of the potent plant. Laboratory investigation into suspected intoxication cases is challenging because the content of toxic aconitum alkaloids varies depending on the plant source, market processing, dosing protocol, hydrolytic degradation, and metabolic transformation. Using a triple-quadrupole tandem mass spectrometer, a group screening method was developed based on the mass-fragmentographic scheme of common aconitum alkaloids. The precursor-ion scans of m/z 105 and 135 permitted selective profiling of 14-O-benzoyl-norditerpenoids and the 14-O-anisoyl-norditerpenoids, respectively. Gradient reversed-phase liquid chromatography minimized coelution of isobaric compounds. The screening protocol was applied to a clinical investigation of suspected herbal poisoning. In total, 15 urine samples were thus screened positive for aconitum alkaloid over 5 years. The diagnoses of aconite poisoning in 11 patients were firmly established based on the known prescription history and the positive urine finding. In four patients, without aconitum herbs being listed in the herbal prescriptions, contamination of the herbal remedies by aconite was suspected to be the hidden cause of their acute poisoning. Yunaconitne, a highly toxic aconitum alkaloid, was thus identified in human urine for the first time. The group screening method of aconitum alkaloids in urine is an important diagnostic aid for acute poisoning by aconites of an unclear origin.

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Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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