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Phytother Res. 2015 Aug;29(8):1107-11. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5370. Epub 2015 May 14.

Incidence and Causes of Aconitum Alkaloid Poisoning in Hong Kong from 1989 to 2010.

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Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Drug and Poisons Information Bureau, Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong, China.
Prince of Wales Hospital Poison Treatment Centre, Hong Kong, China.


Aconite roots contain Aconitum alkaloids, which are highly toxic cardiotoxins and neurotoxins. In this review, the main objective was to determine the incidence and causes of Aconitum alkaloid poisoning in Hong Kong between 1989 and 2010, based on six published reports from the territory-wide poison control units. In the New Territories East of Hong Kong, the incidence of aconite poisoning showed a sudden and sustained decrease from 0.60 (1989-1991) to 0.16 (1992-1993) and 0.17 (1996-1998) per 100 000 population, after publicity measures in late 1991 to promote awareness of the toxicity of aconite roots. In the whole of Hong Kong, the incidence of aconite poisoning was even lower in January 2000-June 2004 (0.03 per 100 000 population). However, aconite poisoning became more common again in April 2004-July 2009 and 2008-2010 (0.15 and 0.28 per 100 000 population). Overdoses and use of inadequately processed aconite roots were important causes. As from 2004 to 2009, 'hidden' aconite poisoning (toxicity caused by contaminants in other dispensed herbs) emerged as an important cause. It is important to continue the safety monitoring of potent herbs and the networking of poison control units. Further systematic studies would be required to identify the likely sources of contamination of herbs.


Aconitum alkaloids; Hong Kong; aconite poisoning; aconite roots; traditional medicine

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