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Kusari S, Tatsimo SJ, Zühlke S, Spiteller M.
“Synthetic Origin of Tramadol in the Environment”.
Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2015 Oct 21.
The presence of tramadol in roots of Sarcocephalus latifolius trees in Northern Cameroon was recently attributed to point contamination with the synthetic compound. The synthetic origin of tramadol in the environment has now been unambiguously confirmed. Tramadol samples isolated from tramadol pills bought at a street market in downtown Maroua and highly contaminated soil at Houdouvou were analyzed by high-precision (14) C measurements by accelerator mass spectrometry ((14) C AMS): Tramadol from the pills did not contain any radiocarbon, thus indicating that it had been synthesized from (14) C-free petroleum-derived precursors. Crucially, tramadol isolated from the soil was also radiocarbon-free. As all biosynthetic plant compounds must contain radiocarbon levels close to that of the contemporary environment, these results thus confirm that tramadol isolated from the soil cannot be plant-derived. Analyses of S. latifolius seeds, in vitro grown plants, plants from different origins, and stable-isotope labeling experiments further confirmed that synthetic tramadol contaminates the environment.
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