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Assessment of the Role Played by N‐propanol Found in Postmortem Blood in the Discrimination Between Antemortem Consumption and Postmortem Formation of Ethanol Using Rats

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This study disproves the reliability of n‐propanol as a biomarker to establish whether the ethanol found in postmortem blood is derived from antemortem ingestion or postmortem putrefactive processes. Two groups of rats were given ethanol or normal saline solution, respectively, and sacrificed 1.5 h later. After putrefaction, blood and, in a few cases, urine samples from the rats were analyzed for ethanol and n‐propanol by head‐space gas chromatography equipped with flame ionization detection. Although the concentration ratios of ethanol/n‐propanol in the postmortem blood collected from the bodies without prior alcohol consumption were expected to be <20 (as per limited case reports and previous in vitro studies), in samples from several rats that were on saline solution, this ratio was found to exceed 20. In conclusion, the concentration ratio of ethanol/n‐propanol in postmortem blood does not allow for the discernment between antemortem ingestion and the postmortem synthesis of ethanol.
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Keywords: blood; ethanol; forensic science; forensic toxicology; n‐propanol; postmortem; putrefaction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2016

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