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A simple HPLC-DAD method for the detection and quantification of psychotropic mitragynine in Mitragyna speciosa (ketum) and its products for the application in forensic investigation

Suhanya Parthasarathy, Surash Ramanathan, Vikneswaran Murugaiyah, Mohammad Razak Hamdan, Mohd Ikram Mohd Said, Choon-Sheen Lai, Sharif Mahsufi Mansor
Forensic Science International 2013 March 10, 226 (1-3): 183-7
Mitragyna speciosa, a native plant of Thailand and Malaysia known as 'ketum', is a plant of considerable interest. It exhibits strong antinociceptive effect and yet, acts like a psychostimulant. Due to the affordability and its ease of availability, the abuse of this plant as a substitute for other banned narcotics has become a major concern in many societies. In countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Australia and Malaysia, the use of ketum is illegal. However, for a person to be charged for possessing or selling ketum, a reliable analytical method is needed in order to detect and identify the plant and its products. Mitragynine is the major alkaloid of ketum. This compound manifests its antinociceptive effects by acting on the opioid receptors. Since M. speciosa contain large quantity of mitragynine and it is exclusive to the species, the present analytical method is developed and validated for the purpose of screening ketum products based on this unique compound as the analytical marker. The method uses a HPLC-DAD system with Inertsil C8 (4.6 mm × 150 mm, 5 μm) as the column and a mixture of acetonitrile and formic acid, 50:50 (v/v), as the mobile phase. This method not only detects mitragynine, it can also be used to quantify the amount of mitragynine in the sample. The limit of detection is 0.25 μg/ml, while the limit of quantification is 0.50 μg/ml. The method is quick, simple and reliable with an accuracy of 97.27-101.74% and coefficient of variations of between 0.91 and 3.96%. The method has been tested and found suitable for the identification and quantification of mitragynine in dried plants, a variety of ketum extracts, as well as ketum drink obtained from the market.


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