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J Forensic Sci. 1995 May;40(3):382-6.

Postmortem drug metabolism by bacteria.

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  • 1Victorian Institute of Forensic Pathology, Monash University, South Melbourne.


Studies were undertaken to determine the possible role of enteric bacteria in the postmortem bioconversion of the nitrobenzodiazepines flunitrazepam, clonazepam, and nitrazepam. Flunitrazepam, clonazepam, and nitrazepam were completely metabolized in blood in the presence of eight species of enteric bacteria to their respective 7-amino-metabolites. The rates of metabolism, at 37 degrees C, ranged from 0.1 ng/mL/min for Streptococcus faecalis to 8.8 ng/mL/min for Clostridium perfringens. The rate of conversion was reduced to 87% by a combination of 0.7% (w/v) sodium fluoride and potassium oxalate, and almost completely inhibited (96%) by 1% (w/v) sodium fluoride. pH had variable effects on the rate of metabolic bioconversion of nitrobenzodiazepines, while increasing temperatures were found to generally increase the rate of nitrobenzodiazepine bioconversion. These data support the proposal that bacteria may mediate postmortem bioconversion of the nitrobenzodiazepines.

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