Fatal Datura poisoning: Identification of atropine and scopolamine by high performance liquid chromatography/photodiode array/mass spectrometry

P. A. Steenkamp, N. M. Harding, F. R. Van Heerden, B. E. Van Wyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A forensic method comprising solid phase extraction and HPLC analysis was developed for the detection and confirmation of atropine and scopolamine, the main toxic alkaloids of Datura stramonium and Datura ferox. This method allowed the direct coupling of an electrospray (ZMD) mass selective detector to the HPLC system. Under these conditions, atropine and scopolamine were well separated from other components and detected on the PDA (LOD=1 μg/ml) and ZMD (LOD atropine=10 pg/ml; LODscopolamine=100 pg/ml) detectors. Four geographically isolated populations of each of D. stramonium and D. ferox were analysed for seed alkaloids and it was found that the two species were diagnostically different in their atropine-scopolamine ratios. The optimised HPLC method was used to analyse three viscera samples of an adult Caucasian male whose death was ascribed to a fatal heart attack. Atropine and scopolamine were detected in the stomach and its contents, which contained Datura seeds. The chemical profile of the seeds found in the stomach contents was similar to those from four geographically different D. ferox plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
JournalForensic Science International
Volume145
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2004

Keywords

  • Atropine
  • Datura ferox
  • Datura stramonium
  • Forensic
  • HPLC
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Poisoning
  • Scopolamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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