The main aim of this study was to perform thin layer chromatography (TLC) on plant extracts of Cerbera odollam and Manihot esculenta, and acertain as to whether similar patterns are obtained in the results. Subsequently, it was proposed to use high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) to find out whether it can differentiate between the two.
Most forensic science laboratories in India perform TLC assays for detecting active principles of Cerbera odollam, which is a common suicidal agent in some parts of the country, especially Kerala. There have been instances where a positive report for Cerbera odollam has been furnished, when no such history of ingestion was available. In some of these cases there was history of ingestion of cassava (Manihot esculenta), which is a staple food in some of the communities in Kerala. An earlier study had shown that the active principles of the two plants (one edible and other poisonous) could exhibit similar TLC profiles leading to confusion.
In this study, TLC patterns of the glycosides present in Cerbera odollam and Manihot esculenta were studied, and it was found that the results were similar to those of the other study. In order to develop an alternative method, which could be applied in suspected cases of Cerbera odollam poisoning, to avoid miscarriage of justice in medicolegal cases, HPLC was performed on the samples, which indicated that it could differentiate between the two.
U. K. Ramakrishnan, Pillay, V. V., and Arathy, S. L., “Forensic Implications of Viscera Analysis in Death due to Cerbera odollam Poisoning”, Journal of the Indian Society of Toxicology, vol. 10, pp. 23–27, 2014.