Concurrent Determination of Cyanide and Thiocyanate in Human and Swine Antemortem and Postmortem Blood by High-performance Liquid Chromatography–tandem Mass Spectrometry

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Cyanide (in the form of cyanide anion (CN−) or hydrogen cyanide (HCN), inclusively represented as CN) can be a rapidly acting and deadly poison, but it is also a common chemical component of a variety of natural and anthropogenic substances. The main mechanism of acute CN toxicity is based on blocking terminal electron transfer by inhibiting cytochrome c oxidase, resulting in cellular hypoxia, cytotoxic anoxia, and potential death. Due to the well-established link between blood CN concentrations and the manifestation of symptoms, the determination of blood concentration of CN, along with the major metabolite, thiocyanate (SCN–), is critical. Because currently there is no method of analysis available for the simultaneous detection of CN and SCN– from blood, a sensitive method for the simultaneous analysis of CN and SCN– from human ante- and postmortem blood via liquid chromatography–tandem MS analysis was developed. For this method, sample preparation for CN involved active microdiffusion with subsequent chemical modification using naphthalene-2,3-dicarboxaldehyde (NDA) and taurine (i.e., the capture solution). Preparation for SCN– was accomplished via protein precipitation and monobromobimane (MBB) modification. The method produced good sensitivity for CN with antemortem limit of detection (LODs) of 219 nM and 605 nM for CN and SCN–, respectively, and postmortem LODs of 352 nM and 509 nM. The dynamic ranges of the method were 5–500 µM and 10–500 µM in ante- and postmortem blood, respectively. In addition, the method produced good accuracy (100 ± 15%) and precision (≤ 15.2% relative standard deviation). The method was able to detect elevated levels of CN and SCN– in both antemortem (N = 5) and postmortem (N = 4) blood samples from CN-exposed swine compared to nonexposed swine.

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Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

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