Cyanide poisoning suspected in prominent doctor’s death: Weekly Web Review in Toxicology

May 5, 2013, 5:43 pm

Police are suspecting that the death of a prominent Pittsburgh neurologist was related to cyanide poisoning. Dr. Autumn Klein collapsed at her home in late April and died 3 days later. Although initial tests detected cyanide, both false positive and false negative results are possible. Final test results may not be available for weeks.

A post on the Scientific American site reports that high lead levels in children and adults in some communities along the Amazon river in Brazil have been traced to the use of lead strips to improvise fishing sinkers, which are often molded by mouth. So far, this practice has proved difficult to eradicate.

The ToxTalk podcast has a recent episode on the methanol poisoning disaster in Libya, which has to date resulted in more that 90 fatalities and sent about 1000 patients to hospital. Matt Zuckerman and the team from the University of Massachusetts discuss methanol poisoning in general, as well as some options when standard interventions such as administering 4-MP or hemodialysis are in short supply. Some take-home lessons:

  • isopropanol can falsely elevate serum creatinine
  • when determining the osmolal gap, specimens for measured osmolality as well as for electrolytes, glucose, creatinine, and ethanol must be drawn at the same time
  • in cases of severe methanol toxicity when hemodialysis is not available, peritoneal dialysis case be considered


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