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Occurrence of α- and -nortestosterone residues in the urine of injured male cattle

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The administration of anabolic steroids, for the purposes of growth promotion, to food-producing animals is banned in the EU. Among the compounds covered by this prohibition is ss-nortestosterone (-NT). This hormone is known to occur naturally in stallions and boars, and its main bovine metabolite, α-nortestosterone (α-NT), occurs naturally in pregnant cows and neonatal calves. However, neither compound is believed to occur naturally in male cattle. During 2006, the presence of α-NT and, on occasion, -NT was confirmed in male cattle (bulls and steers) slaughtered in Northern Ireland on welfare grounds, as a result of acute injury. Subsequent investigations revealed no evidence of abuse at any of the farms involved and revealed that the phenomenon also occurred in three other regions of the EU, in similarly injured animals. A hypothetical link to release of the adrenal steroid, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), in response to the stress of the injury was tested. Following the intravenous administration of DHEA to two normal steers, -NT (but not α-NT) was confirmed in the urine of one steer. Thus, it may be concluded that both -NT and, by implication, α-NT can occur naturally in male cattle (or a specific cohort thereof) in contrast to previously accepted scientific knowledge.
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Keywords: GC/MS; animal products; hormones; meat

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Chemical Surveillance Branch, Veterinary Sciences Division, Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute, Belfast BT4 3SD, Northern Ireland, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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