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The Danger of Chloramphenicol in Milk


Chloramphenicol (CAP) is a naturally occurring, broad-spectrum antibiotic (Figure 1) that is artificially manufactured for use in veterinary and human medicine. Due to its adverse effects in humans, use of the antibiotic is restricted and, in some situations, prohibited. Increased legislation has led to the imposition of a ‘zero tolerance’ of CAP in food products by the European Council Regulation EEC No. 2377/90[1] and the technologies used in CAP detection being both improved and updated. A case study using the Bruker EVOQ™ Qube identifies CAP in milk matrix at 0.02 ppb, meeting the required minimum required performance level (MRPL) of 0.3 ppb.

CAP is a bacteriostatic antimicrobial effective against both Gram-positive and -negative bacteria. CAP was first introduced into clinical practice as ‘chloromycetin’ in 1949, derived from the bacterium Streptomyces venezuelae. By inhibiting protein synthesis, CAP stops protein growth. It prevents protein chain elongation by inhibiting the ribosome, directly interfering with the substrate binding.

A very small, extremely lipophilic molecule, CAP remains relatively unbound to proteins. These physiochemical properties give it excellent blood-brain barrier permeability and make it the primary treatment for staphylococcal brain diseases. As one of the first antibiotics to be synthetically mass manufactured, CAP was used as a first line of typhoid treatment. In the EU today, CAP is often restricted to use with serious infections and only when necessary. However, the prescribing of CAP for the treatment of optical conditions and in topical preparations is still common. CAP is also still prescribed frequently in developing countries due to its inexpensive high availability. With a long drug history across a number of countries, CAP has around 40 trade names, including Cedoctine (Egypt, intravenous preparation), Edrumycetin 250 (Bangladesh, capsule) and Vanmycetin (Hong Kong, eye drops).

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