Discrepancy between CYP2D6 phenotype and genotype derived from post-mortem dextromethorphan blood level

Benoit Bailey, Richard Daneman, Nick Daneman, Joel M. Mayer, Gideon Koren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the death of a toddler after a therapeutic dose of dextromethorphan and its investigation. Study design: Case report, cytochrome P450 phenotype and genotype determination in the victim and post-mortem drug redistribution study performed in rats. Results: A 20-month Asian male who received 3 mg of dextromethorphan once at 09:00 h and again at 22:00 h was found dead at 04:35 h. Post-mortem examination showed signs of early bronchopneumonia (bacterial cultures were negative); dextromethorphan and dextrorphan blood concentrations taken from the heart cavity were 500 ng/ml (1.84 μmol/l) and 200 ng/ml (0.78 μmol/l), respectively. Despite the dextromethorphan level being almost 100-fold higher than expected after therapeutic doses, intentional or unintentional overdose was extremely unlikely; other potential causes were investigated. Post-mortem drug redistribution study performed in rats showed that dextromethorphan does not undergo extensive redistribution after death (6±5-fold increase) and could not explain the observed dextromethorphan level. The dextromethorphan/dextrorphan concentration ratio of 2.5 found in this toddler was compatible with a slow CYP2D6 metabolizer phenotype. However, the toddler exhibited a fast metabolizer genotype. Potential reasons for this discrepancy are discussed. Conclusion: CYP450 phenotypes derived from post-mortem blood levels should be interpreted with caution and preferably confirmed by a genotype analysis. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-70
Number of pages10
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1
StatePublished - 8 May 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • CYP 2D6
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Genotype
  • Phenotype
  • Post-mortem blood level


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