Research conducted by Owen McDougal and biomolecular science graduate student Matt Turner recently was featured in an article in the journal Clinical Toxicology titled “Hikers poisoned: Veratrum steroidal alkaloid toxicity following ingestion of foraged Veratrum parviflorum.”
McDougal and Turner were invited to participate in a research project to evaluate the blood serum and plasma for two hikers of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. These individuals had accidentally poisoned themselves by eating what they thought was mountain leek. Botanist Wendy Zomlefer of the University of Georgia identified the plant as Veratrum parviflorum. Based on the work done with Veratrum californicum in McDougal’s lab, and a review article his team published on North American Veratrum alkaloids, McDougal and Turner were invited to analyze the plant alkaloids to determine if they were the causative agent that poisoned the hikers.
This was the first reported incident of poisoning by Veratrum parviflorum and the first report of the alkaloids present in the plant.