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Strychnine Poisoning

Toxic Effect of Strychnine

Strychnine poisoning occurs after accidental or intentional ingestion of strychnine, a bitter-tasting alkaloid most commonly found in rodenticides. Severe neurological impairment manifesting with convulsions and myoclonus and respiratory insufficiency rapidly ensue, and the diagnosis is often made post-mortem, as poisoning is frequently life-threatening.


Presentation

The clinical presentation stems from the deleterious effects of strychnine on the central nervous system (CNS). By reducing the activity of glycine, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the CNS, strychnine causes profound motor stimulation as early as 10-30 minutes after ingestion, which is considered to be the main mode of poison introduction into the human body, but rare cases have documented dermal exposure as a mode of poisoning [1] [2] [3]. Muscle spasms and agitation may be encountered early on, followed by characteristic spasms of flexors of the upper limbs and extensors of the lower limbs, opisthotonos and risus sardonicus - spasm of the facial muscles [1]. In addition to enhanced muscle activity, convulsions are a constitutive feature of strychnine poisoning, primarily in the form of generalized attacks [1] [2]. In virtually all cases, convulsions are provoked by sensory stimuli, as hyperacuity of hearing, vision, and tactile sensation are also consequences of poisoning [4]. It must be noted that the patient is awake and conscious at the time of convulsions and during the appearance of muscle spasms [2]. Moreover, hyperthermia, rhabdomyolysis, renal failure due to myoglobinuria, and severe metabolic acidosis can develop in the setting of prolonged spasms [2], but the most important complication is the respiratory failure [3]. Spasms of the muscles of the chest and diaphragm are the main cause of death, and the majority of patients suffer from fatal respiratory distress before even reaching the hospital [2] [3].

Severe Pain
  • The death of Barrois is depicted with symptoms of acute convulsions , asphyxia , severe pain, ringing in the ears and visual glares that are precipitated by touch.[en.wikipedia.org]
  • When this “off switch” does not work correctly, muscles throughout the body have severe, painful spasms.[emergency.cdc.gov]
Chest Discomfort
  • One hour after she drank the second bowl of herbal decoction, she suddenly developed tonic contractions of all her limb muscles and carpopedal spasm lasting 5 min, difficulty in breathing, chest discomfort and perioral numbness.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Disability
  • Hirtzberger barely survived and suffered permanent disability. [13] Turgut Özal , 8th President of the Republic of Turkey was said to have been assassinated in 1993 by strychnine poisoning. [14] [15] [16] The Turkish Presidency commissioned a Special[en.wikipedia.org]
Abdominal Pain
  • Profound hypokalemia is the most characteristic effect, in addition to abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, and altered mental status.[emedicine.medscape.com]
Abdominal Cramps
  • She then developed trismus and abdominal cramping, after which a family member said the bottle contained a compound called "slang nut."[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Trismus
  • In 1933 in Leon, Nicaragua, a 22-year-old woman died after an acute convulsive illness in which she experienced trismus, opisthotonos, and hyperpyrexia.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • She then developed trismus and abdominal cramping, after which a family member said the bottle contained a compound called "slang nut."[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Classic signs include opisthotonus, facial trismus, and risus sardonicus. Differential diagnosis includes: Tetanus: However, the onset of symptoms is more gradual and the duration much longer than in the case of strychnine poisoning.[umem.org]
  • […] often portrayed in literature and film, such as the murder mysteries written by Agatha Christie . [1] Presentation in humans [ edit ] Ten to twenty minutes after exposure, the body's muscles begin to spasm, starting with the head and neck in the form of trismus[en.wikipedia.org]
Muscle Twitch
  • The skin perception becomes aggravated, a crawling sensation appears, small muscle twitches, numbness, the slightest sound, light - irritate. Chewing muscles are strongly strained, swallowing is difficult.[en.intoxication-stop.com]
  • Strychnine poisoning usually manifests with a prodrome of nausea, agitation, muscle twitching and spasms that develops within minutes of ingestion, but occasionally may not be evident for 1-2 hours.[lifeinthefastlane.com]
Muscle Cramp
  • Its also possible that LSD itself simply causes adverse physical effects, particularly muscle cramping, in persons suceptible to it.[erowid.org]
Carpopedal Spasm
  • One hour after she drank the second bowl of herbal decoction, she suddenly developed tonic contractions of all her limb muscles and carpopedal spasm lasting 5 min, difficulty in breathing, chest discomfort and perioral numbness.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Carpopedal Spasm
  • One hour after she drank the second bowl of herbal decoction, she suddenly developed tonic contractions of all her limb muscles and carpopedal spasm lasting 5 min, difficulty in breathing, chest discomfort and perioral numbness.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
Risus Sardonicus
  • Muscle spasms and agitation may be encountered early on, followed by characteristic spasms of flexors of the upper limbs and extensors of the lower limbs, opisthotonos and risus sardonicus - spasm of the facial muscles.[symptoma.com]
  • This may manifest as painful grimacing (the sardonic smile of risus sardonicus ) or back arching ( opisthotonus ).[lifeinthefastlane.com]
  • Classic signs include opisthotonus, facial trismus, and risus sardonicus. Differential diagnosis includes: Tetanus: However, the onset of symptoms is more gradual and the duration much longer than in the case of strychnine poisoning.[umem.org]
  • Therefore: C onvulsions R eflex increased A wful taste M ind is conscious P upils dilated Awful, bitter taste Clonic-tonic convulsions Opisthotonos: arching back Emprosthotonos: arching forward Pleurothotonus: bending sideward Risus Sardonicus: Evil fixed[medpreponline.com]
Seizure
  • The patient survived despite the development of seizures, lactic acidosis, rhabdomyolysis, and pulmonary infiltrates. Toxicology testing confirmed the presence of strychnine in blood (2.17 mg/L), gastric aspirate, and urine.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Successful treatment requires aggressive airway control and treatment of seizures with benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Neuromuscular blockade may be required.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Strychnine poisoning results in a predictable and treatable sequence of events involving blockade of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, extensor muscle spasms, seizures, and respiratory paralysis.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • "Toxicants Associated with Seizures" . Veterinary Toxicology . Retrieved 2006-06-18 . Graham Phillips . Alexander the Great. Murder in Babylon . Virgin Books , 2004. p. 239ff. ISBN 1 85227 134 5 .[en.wikipedia.org]
  • She does not have a history of seizures or any other medical issues, but is currently in the midst of a divorce with her husband.[calpoison.org]
Opisthotonus
  • The clinical features mimic tetanus with sense of suffocation, twitching of muscles, followed by tetanic convulsions and opisthotonus, each lasting half to two minutes. Consciousness is not lost and mind remains clear till death.[medchrome.com]
  • A phenomenon, called opisthotonus may also occur, in which severe contraction of the paraspinal muscles causes a characteristic arching posture of the neck and back.[calpoison.org]
  • This may manifest as painful grimacing (the sardonic smile of risus sardonicus ) or back arching ( opisthotonus ).[lifeinthefastlane.com]
  • Classic signs include opisthotonus, facial trismus, and risus sardonicus. Differential diagnosis includes: Tetanus: However, the onset of symptoms is more gradual and the duration much longer than in the case of strychnine poisoning.[umem.org]
  • The onset of symptoms is 10 to 120 minutes after ingestion. [7] Symptoms include seizures , a " sawhorse " stance, and opisthotonus (rigid extension of all four limbs). Death is usually secondary to respiratory paralysis.[en.wikipedia.org]
Hyperreflexia
  • The ten main symptoms of strychnine poisoning: Initial symptoms are tightness and twitching of the muscles, agitation and hyperreflexia. Stiffness of the body. Lockjaw. Frothing of the mouth. Cessation of respiration.[chm.bris.ac.uk]
  • Needless to say, a “thumbnail-sized” portion is worrying… Muscle spasms and rigidity generally resolve within 24 hours, although ongoing hyperreflexia and increased tone may persist for up to a week or so.[lifeinthefastlane.com]
  • […] eflex increased A wful taste M ind is conscious P upils dilated Awful, bitter taste Clonic-tonic convulsions Opisthotonos: arching back Emprosthotonos: arching forward Pleurothotonus: bending sideward Risus Sardonicus: Evil fixed grin Dilated pupils Hyperreflexia[medpreponline.com]
  • Strychnine, an indole found in the seeds, is a powerful central nervous system stimulant that competes with the inhibitory neurotransmitter glycine, producing an excitatory state with hyperreflexia, severe muscle spasm, and convulsions.[thepoisongarden.co.uk]

Workup

An immediate laboratory workup comprising serum lactate levels, arterial blood gasses (ABG), pH measurement, and renal function tests must be performed in patients who are admitted to the hospital with profound spasms and generalized convulsions, to initiate adequate therapeutic measures and to save the patient's life. The diagnosis of strychnine poisoning may be difficult to make, however, as poisoning by this substance is very rare, but details from patient history such as recent exposure to rodenticides or use of intravenous drugs (strychnine was shown to be added as an adulterant drug to cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines) may be helpful [2]. Interview with friends or family should be conducted to assess the mental state of the patient, like attempted suicide using strychnine is also an important mode of intoxication [1]. In patients with an undisclosed cause of symptoms, especially in the setting of a sudden death, a routine toxicology report and a meticulous post-mortem examination are necessary [5]. Identifying strychnine as the underlying cause of symptoms can be made by its quantitative evaluation in body fluids (blood and urine) and tissues. Gas chromatography (GC) is recommended, both anti-mortem and post-mortem [1] [3]. It is the main diagnostic tool, and two methods have been mentioned in literature - GC-flame ionization detection (GC-FID) and GC nitrogen-phosphorus detection (GC-NPD) [3]. Mass spectrometry is another laboratory procedure that could be performed for detection of strychnine [1] [3].

Pulmonary Infiltrate
  • The patient survived despite the development of seizures, lactic acidosis, rhabdomyolysis, and pulmonary infiltrates. Toxicology testing confirmed the presence of strychnine in blood (2.17 mg/L), gastric aspirate, and urine.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

Treatment

  • Successful treatment requires aggressive airway control and treatment of seizures with benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Neuromuscular blockade may be required.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • A rare case of suicidal strychnine poisoning that resolved naturally without treatment is presented.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • This report describes the treatment and successful outcome of a patient who had taken a dose of strychnine that would normally be fatal. A 28-y-old man was admitted 2 h after ingestion of 1 to 1.5 g of strychnine.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The case illustrates the dramatic presentation of strychnine poisoning, its rapidity of action, and the need for early aggressive treatment.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Her course, history and outcome are presented and the pharmacokinetics, the mechanism of action, signs and symptoms and treatment of strychnine poisoning are reviewed.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

Prognosis

  • If the patient survives past 24 hours, the prognosis is good and a full recovery is probable.[path.upmc.edu]

Etiology

  • (See Etiology, Presentation , and Workup .) Since the mid-20th century, anticoagulant substances have been the mainstays of rodenticide products.[emedicine.medscape.com]

Epidemiology

  • The pathophysiology and epidemiology of strychnine poisoning is reviewed and discussed in context.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • […] major books: (1) Toxicology of Organophosphate and Carbamate Compounds, (2) Veterinary Toxicology: Basic and Clinical Principles, (3) Handbook of Toxicology of Chemical Warfare Agents, (4) Anticholinesterase Pesticides: Metabolism, Neurotoxicity, and Epidemiology[books.google.de]
  • He has since completed further training in emergency medicine, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology and health professional education.[lifeinthefastlane.com]
  • (See Epidemiology.) [1] Red squill The botanical preparation of red squill, containing a cardiac glycoside as an active ingredient, was used as a rodenticide for many years.[emedicine.medscape.com]
Sex distribution
Age distribution

Pathophysiology

  • The pathophysiology and epidemiology of strychnine poisoning is reviewed and discussed in context.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • The pathophysiologic mechanism of chemical pancreatitis is discussed.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

Prevention

  • What makes tetanus different is that it prevents the release of glycine at the nerve terminal.[calpoison.org]
  • Action: Blocks ventral horn motor neurone postganglionic receptor sites in spinal cord and prevents the effects of inhibitory neurotransmitter glycine C. Clinical features: Symptoms usually begin 5-10 minutes after ingestion.[medchrome.com]
  • : [email protected] The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects people’s health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and[emergency.cdc.gov]
  • […] back Emprosthotonos: arching forward Pleurothotonus: bending sideward Risus Sardonicus: Evil fixed grin Dilated pupils Hyperreflexia Mind and consciousness are maintained Death results due to asphyxia or exhaustion Treatment: Based on two principles: Prevention[medpreponline.com]
  • The poison acts by preventing the body's tissues from using oxygen. Continue reading the main story The lethal dose for potassium cyanide, the most common solid form of the poison, is in the range of 150 to 200 milligrams.[nytimes.com]

References

Article

  1. Rosano TG, Hubbard JD, Meola JM, Swift TA. Fatal strychnine poisoning: application of gas chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. J Anal Toxicol. 2000;24(7):642-647.
  2. Wood DM, Webster E, Martinez D, Dargan PI, Jones AL. Case report: Survival after deliberate strychnine self-poisoning, with toxicokinetic data. Crit Care. 2002;6(5):456-459.
  3. Greene R, Meatherall R. Dermal exposure to strychnine. J Anal Toxicol. 2001;25(5):344-347.
  4. Porter RS, Kaplan JL. Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 19th Edition. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Whitehouse Station, N.J; 2011.
  5. Kodikara S. Strychnine in amoxicillin capsules: a means of homicide. J Forensic Leg Med. 2012;19(1):40-41.

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Last updated: 2018-06-22 02:30