Colchicine traced to gingko biloba preparations found in placental blood


WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) – During an analysis of human placental blood, investigators in Michigan detected the presence of colchicine in several samples. This potentially teratogenic plant alkaloid was traced to the mothers' use of gingko biloba supplements, they report in the September issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Dr. Howard R. Petty, of Wayne State University in Detroit, and associates were conducting an analysis of neonatal neutrophil function when they encountered an unknown compound in pooled blood from 30 pregnancies. After they identified it as colchicine, they analyzed individual blood samples from 24 patients and found colchicine in 5 women.

Colchicine concentrations ranged from 49 µg/L to 760 µg/L in five women who had used herbal supplements during their pregnancy. The remaining patients, whose blood contained little or no detectable colchicine, denied having used such supplements.

The investigators analyzed commercial ginkgo biloba purchased in the Detroit area and found a mean of 26 µg colchicine per tablet of the gingko. Dr. Petty and his associates point out that biological effects in vitro have been observed for colchicine concentrations ranging from 0.4 to 40 mg/L, which includes the range observed in their patients.

Based on these data, the investigators warn that fetuses of mothers who use high levels of herbal supplements may be vulnerable to the antimitotic effects of colchicine.

Chem Res Toxicol 2001;14:000-000.

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