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Forensic Sci Int. 2011 Mar 20;206(1-3):e103-7. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2011.01.018. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

Fatal intoxication due to ackee (Blighia sapida) in Suriname and French Guyana. GC-MS detection and quantification of hypoglycin-A.

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LAT-LUMTOX, 800 avenue Marie Curie, 07800 La Voulte sur Rhône, France.


Between 1998 and 2001 the deaths of 16 Surinamese children were recorded along the Maroni River, which forms the border between Suriname and French Guyana. After a metabolic origin was eliminated, ethnobotanical research in the field led to a hypothesis of intoxication through the ingestion of ackee. Ackee (Blighia sapida) is a large green leafy tree of West African origin. Its unripe fruit contains large quantities of two toxic molecules: hypoglycin-A and hypoglycin-B, the former being the more toxic. We have developed a GC-MS procedure allowing us to demonstrate the presence of hypoglycin-A in the gastric fluid of one of the deceased children, and to compare the content of hypoglycin-A in fruit collected on the road to Paramaribo in Suriname (5.1mg/g) with samples from Burkina Faso (8.1mg/g) and Jamaica (9.2mg/g). Field research showed the misuse of this little-known plant by Maroon witch doctors. The Bushinengue witch doctors were informed about the dangers of ackee, and no new cases have been reported to date.

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