Khat (Catha edulis) is a plant containing alkaloid compounds that are structurally related to amphetamine. Khat leaves are chewed continuously and kept in the cheek for several hours. The juice produced from chewing is swallowed while the remaining khat leaf residue is later spat out. It is commonly used for its effects on mental alertness, as a physical stimulant, and to induce euphoria. Chewing khat leaves has been associated with several adverse health effects, and there are very few case reports of cardiotoxicity, stroke and death resulting from this. Postmortem distribution of cathine and cathinone, active components of khat, is not yet fully clear.

In a recent study authored by Ibraheem M. Attafi et al., published in the Arab Journal of Forensic Sciences & Forensic Medicine ((2018) 7(1) 922-930)), a postmortem case report aimed to identify and determine the concentration of cathine and cathinone in different body organs and green chewed plants found in the mouth of the deceased. Extraction of the khat compounds was performed using UCT’s Clean Screen® DAU in conjunction with LC-MS/MS quantitative analysis to confirm that samples were positive for cathinone and cathine.

Cathine and cathinone concentrations were found to differ with respect to site of sampling. The results suggest that stomach and chewed green plants are considered as good samples to show the concentration for both compounds at the time of death of the khat chewer. This post mortem study demonstrates the power and efficiency of Clean Screen® DAU for the analysis of complicated, plant-based matrices. Click here to learn more about UCT’s flagship sorbent.