Journal of analytical toxicology

Unexpectedly dangerous escargot stew: oleandrin poisoning through the alimentary chain.

PMID 17137529


A female, aged 43 and a male, aged 66, experienced gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms after a meal including snail stew. Twelve hours after the ingestion, they presented with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cardiovascular symptoms typical of acute toxic digoxin ingestion and were hospitalized. The man's electrocardiogram was altered, and the woman's was normal. Serum digoxin levels, measured on a Roche COBAS Integra 800 with the Roche On-Line Digoxin reagent, were 1.14 and 1.00 nmol/L, respectively. Potassium levels were normal in both patients. The serum digoxin concentration decreased on the second day, and symptoms resolved on the third day with patients fully recovered (i.e., reversion to a normal sinus rhythm). Cardiac-glycoside-like intoxication symptoms follow the ingestion of leaves or flowers of Nerium oleander. The consumed snails were suspected to be responsible for the intoxication. In the homogenized snail tissue, the concentration expressed in digoxin equivalents was 0.282 nmol/g. The presence of oleandrin and oleandrigenin in the snails was confirmed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry analysis, which was performed on a ionic-trap Finnigan LXQ instrument using an electrospray ionization interface. High-pressure liquid chromatographic separation was performed on a C18 column with a gradient of methanol/water. An extract of oleander leaves was used as reference.

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Oleandrin, analytical standard