Scientific letters

Does the nose know? Amitraz poisoning and olfaction

Andy Parrish, Ruth Lancaster


The initial clinical presentation of amitraz and organophosphate poisoning may be similar. Reduced serum pseudocholinesterase supports a diagnosis of organophosphate toxicity, but there is no similar laboratory test for amitraz poisoning. A ‘mothball-like’ odour associated with poisoned patients may have diagnostic potential. In a blinded controlled trial, 83% (95% confidence interval, 63% to 93%) of 23 healthcare workers were able to distinguish between the odours of amitraz and organophosphate. Awareness of this simple component of bedside examination may allow earlier recognition of this potentially fatal poisoning.

Authors' affiliations

Andy Parrish, Department of Internal Medicine, Walter Sisulu University, East London Hospital Complex Section

Ruth Lancaster, Doctor of Pharmacy Programme, Faculty of Pharmacy, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape

Full Text



Diagnostic testing, Amitraz, Poisoning, Toxicology, Organophosphate

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2012;102(4):223-224.

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-02-01
Date published: 2012-03-02

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