Published Online: 1 April 1982
Page Count: 6
Chief toxicologist, Department of Laboratory Medicine, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD
Head, Autopsy Service, Naval Regional Medical Center, San Diego, CA
(Received 18 June 1981; accepted 14 October 1981)
The possibility of the production of ethanol by bacterial metabolism of blood glucose was investigated by studying a series of 26 hospital autopsies. The patients died from a wide variety of nontraumatic causes and the bodies were transported within 4 h of death to the morgue, where they were refrigerated for 0 to 28 h before samples of vitreous humor were collected for ethanol analysis. In addition, right heart blood was obtained using sterile technique for cultures as well as ethanol and glucose determinations. Ethanol was measured using gas-liquid chromatography, and glucose values were determined with a glucose oxidase method. In 13 cases, one to three species of microorganisms were isolated, but in no case was a blood or vitreous ethanol value greater than 10 mg/dL recorded. Ethanol values were also less than 10 mg/dL in the 13 cases with negative culture results. These data strongly suggest that de-novo production of ethanol by microbial metabolism does not occur in intact bodies which are refrigerated within 4 h of death. The detection of ethanol under such conditions is therefore probably indicative of antemortem consumption.
Paper ID: JFS11490J